Fla. schools rank 14th nationally

Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 9:53 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 9:53 a.m.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida's schools ranked 14th nationally with a grade of C-plus on a report card issued Wednesday by Education Week magazine, although the state placed 38th in public education spending.

Much of the credit for Florida's overall finish among the 50 states and District of Columbia goes to high marks for its teaching profession and system of standards, assessment and accountability. Those are two of six categories measured in the annual Quality Counts report.

Also noteworthy is Florida's seventh-place ranking in kindergarten through 12th grade achievement an improvement from 31st last year although the state received a grade of only C in that category. Florida was so high this year because the average national grade was a dismal D-plus.

Florida's current achievement remained below average, but its high overall ranking in that category was due to "very strong improvements in recent years and relatively small poverty gaps," the report says.

The biggest drag on Florida's achievement grade was its 2004 graduation rate of only 60.5 percent 45th nationally.

State education officials insist graduation rates on such national comparisons are based on unreliable statistical models while Florida obtains more accurate numbers by tracking every student. The state's number for last year was 72.4 percent.

Another difference is that the state counts General Education Development and other special diplomas not included in national statistics.

The report was compiled by the magazine's parent, Bethesda, Md.-based Editorial Projects in Education, with support from the Pew Center on the States, a research organization in Washington, D.C.

The B that Florida received for its teaching profession was good for fourth place nationally. Florida received high marks for its teacher testing requirements, performance evaluations, merit pay plan and bonus payments to teachers who earn national board certification.

The state, though, fell short on overall teacher pay. Florida teachers earn only 85 cents for every dollar earned in 16 comparable jobs including accountant, architect, clergy, computer programer, editor, reporter, insurance underwriter and registered nurse, according to the report.

Florida received its worst grade a C-minus and 38th place ranking for school finance. Florida's per student spending of $7,539 in 2005 ranked 39th nationally. The state spent only 3 percent of taxable resources on public schools to rank 42nd. Florida's finance system, though, got mostly good marks for equity.

Florida received an A-minus and placed 12th nationally down from fourth last year for standards, assessments and accountability. Florida has long been considered a leader in accountability and assessment.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush's A-Plus program includes high-stakes standardized testing and annual grades used to reward and sanction individual schools.

Florida received a C-plus and 32nd ranking one spot down from last year in the chance of success category. It includes family income, parents' educational level, whether parents speak fluent English and statewide income, employment and education levels. It also factors in student achievement.

The state received a C-plus and 12th ranking also one down from last year in the final category, transition and alignment of public school policies to early childhood and post-secondary education, the economy and work force.

Last year's report did not include school finance and teaching profession assessments and it dropped letter grades. In 2006, Florida received in overall grade of B-minus but Education Week officials said no comparison can be made with this year because changes are made annually in the way grades are determined.

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