Peter Schorsch: Florida schools have closed Hispanic achievement gap
Sed risus augue, eleifend at mi eget, interdum ullamcorper purus.


Every day in eighth grade, a special-ed teacher would come into our language arts classroom and pull two students out for what I assume was remedial English training.

Despite being fluent in English and two of the smartest kids I knew, these friends weren’t expected to get what they needed from a mainstream classroom or perform as well as other students on standardized tests.

Statistically speaking, back then, Hispanic students in Florida fell through the proverbial cracks. In 1998, Florida’s Hispanic students scored 25 points below the average for white students.

That’s when Florida embraced higher standards and increased accountability. The gains achieved since then dispel some of the greatest education myths of all time — in this case, the myth that you can’t close an achievement gap simply by (gasp!) expecting that students could.

Over the past 15 years, Hispanic students in Florida have achieved the once unthinkable.

Florida eliminated the gap between Hispanic and white students taking and completing AP courses and exams. In fact, in 2013 Hispanic students performed better on AP exams than their peers. While Hispanic students made up 25 percent of the 2013 graduating class, they accounted for nearly 28 percent of AP exam takers and 31 percent of those who earned a score of 3 or higher.

The increase in the percentage of Hispanic students graduating from high school within four years has exceeded that of students as a whole. In fourth-grade math, Hispanic students’ average score was among the highest in the nation and no other states had significantly higher average reading exam scores than Florida’s Hispanic eighth grade students.

These improvements didn’t materialize on their own. They happened because of an unshakable focus on high standards, school accountability, parental choice and a commitment to rewarding effective teachers.

Even more impressive, the closing of the achievement gap for Hispanic students happened during the least likely time: a period of substantial Hispanic population growth. While Florida’s population grew by about 18 percent between 2000 and 2010, Hispanic population grew by 57 percent. The Hispanic population along the I-4 corridor grew by nearly 60 percent from 2000 to 2009.

The rest of the U.S. (and admittedly, we Floridians, too) can get our chuckles out of Twitter’s famed “Florida Man” and the related spectacles we’re known to make.

But then there’s this: no other state has seen the progress that Florida has had in supporting all students, of all backgrounds, in achieving all that they can. Those headlines aren’t the sexy ones. And maybe that’s why so few people know what Florida’s educational system has accomplished so quickly.

This lack of awareness may also contribute to the chorus of critics who oppose the launching of the new Florida Standards. Critics fear that the higher standards and new assessments will be too challenging for our educators and pupils.

But a greater understanding of how far we’ve come already demonstrates that our teachers and students will do quite well.

Peter Schorsch is a political consultant and new media publisher based in St. Petersburg. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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