Peter Schorsch: Reports shows that Fla. students are performing well

The Nation’s Report Card, published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, looks at the performance of 4th and 8th grade students across the U.S. It is the only assessment that allows real comparisons of Florida students to those in other states.

It’s a big report. It has a multi-tabbed website full of data and maps and charts and tables. It takes some time to sort through.

But thanks to Florida’s “Learn More. Go Further. campaign, the performance of Florida students has been made accessible in a new visual report that compares Florida’s educational performance to other states and to Florida’s results in the past.

The report should affect decisions about the state’s education system being considered by the Legislature.

In many ways, laws are written blindfolded, without the people making the decisions knowing where we started or how far we have come as a state on a certain issue.

But the data is available for education — and it is encouraging. Here are a few takeaways from the NAEP report, as presented in this infographic report:

  • In 8th-grade math, the academic improvement of Florida students is three times higher than that of students nationwide.
  • Florida is the only state to have narrowed the achievement gap in 4th and 8th-grade reading and math between white and African American students since 2011.
  • In 4th-grade math and reading and 8th-grade reading, the academic improvement of Florida students is twice as high as that of students nationwide.
  • Florida students outperform the national average in every subgroup for 4th-grade reading.
  • Florida’s 4th-grade Hispanic readers are 1st in the nation among their peers.
  • Florida’s 4th-grade low-income readers rank 1st in the nation.
  • Florida’s 4th-grade readers with disabilities scored 2nd in the nation among their peers, and 5th in the nation in math.
  • Florida is 5th in the nation among 8th-grade students with disabilities in reading.

These stats mean something — particularly in light of a recent survey that revealed widespread misconceptions among the quality of Florida’s educational system. About one-third of parents incorrectly believe that the quality of education in Florida has gotten worse, and only 8 percent of parents statewide believe that Florida schools are above average compared to other states.

The Nation’s Report Card also has something to say about student performance in charter schools — another issue before the Legislature.

In Florida, the report found that low-income charter school students outperform their peers in traditional schools. About 45 percent of low-income Florida students in charter schools scored proficient or better in 4th grade reading, compared to 31 percent in traditional schools. Likewise, 39 percent of low-income students in charter schools scored proficient or better in 8th grade reading, compared to 26 percent in traditional schools.

Florida is clearly moving in the right direction, and we will do right by students to continue expecting more and designing assessments that measure skills.

In doing so, I’m confident Florida’s next report card will show similar across-the-board gains in performance.

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

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