State education graded as C+


Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 21, 2008 at 10:45 p.m.

Florida is still struggling to get students to graduate from high school, but is doing much better than most other states in accountability, according to a recent study.

The nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education recently conducted its annual analysis of each state's educational policies, procedures and results. The findings were published this month by the newspaper Education Week as part of its 12th annual Quality Counts edition.

Overall, Florida is just above average with a C+.

Florida's best grade was an A- and a ranking of 12 for standards, assessment and accountability. Having systems in place for rating schools, establishing statewide content standards and sanctions for low-performing schools were among the factors considered in setting the grade.

Florida got its highest national rank for its teaching profession - fourth from the top and a grade of B. Formal evaluations, skills tests and linking teachers to student achievement on state tests were among the reasons for the high ranking.

Although Florida ranked seventh in academic performance, the state only earned a C grade in that category. While the state made some of the big gains in achievement, Florida's fourth-graders ranked 23rd for math and reading proficiency while the state's eighth-graders ranked 36th in math and 31st in reading. The state's graduation rate also was a negative factor in determining academic performance.

A C+ and a rank of 32 out of 50 states was awarded in the Chance for Success category. While researchers determined that Florida was above the national averages at getting children enrolled in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs, Florida's high school graduation rate was 60.5 percent, placing it 45th among the states.

A C+ was awarded in the category of transitions and alignment - how each state is doing at preparing students for the next phase of their education.

Despite the average grade, Florida ranked 12th nationally. The state has some programs in place, like early-learning standards and learning expectations, but does not have a statewide definition of college readiness.

The C- and 38th ranking for school finance was due in large part to how far Florida is from the national average on per-pupil spending and overall spending on education.

According to the report, Florida ranked 39th on per-pupil spending. The state average was $7,539 per pupil, while the national average was $8,973 per pupil. Researchers also noted that Florida spends 3 percent of its taxable resources on education, while the national average is 3.6 percent.

Karen Voyles can be reached at 352-359-5656 or kvoyles@gmail.com.

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