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January 9, 2006

Jennifer Fennell or
Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Commissioner Winn Announces 2005 Education "Year in Review"
Florida's students continue to make gains, improve scores

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner John L. Winn today announced the 2005 Year in Review for education in Florida. Highlights will be posted on the Florida Department of Education's website ( and feature some of the accomplishments of Florida's students during 2005.

"Under the leadership of Governor Bush and his A+ Plan, and with the support of the Florida Legislature, Florida's students made significant gains in reading and mathematics during 2005," said Commissioner Winn. "By raising accountability standards in Florida, we create an environment for educational success as evidenced by these accomplishments."

Highlights from the 2005 Year in Review include the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in which Florida again surpassed the national average in fourth grade reading and bettered the national average in fourth grade mathematics for the first time. Hispanic and African-American students continued their positive trends in reading and mathematics, exceeding national performance levels. Students with disabilities in Florida ranked above the national average for the first time.

"The education policies we've developed are helping students succeed," said Florida State Board of Education Chairman Phil Handy. "We are heading in the right direction by investing wisely in our students and making certain that public policy drives better results. It is for this thoughtful policy and meaningful reform that Florida has been nationally recognized in the ‘Quality Counts' report issued earlier this month. Progress has been made and we are closing the achievement gap in both reading and mathematics for our minority students."

Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) scores were on the rise in 2005. Two-thirds of all third grade students were reading at or above grade level – the largest number in the state's history. During 2004, more than half were reading at or above grade level.

The state graduation rate increased during 2005. Florida's graduation rate was 71.9 percent in 2004-05, up nearly 12 percent over the last six years. Since 1998-99, graduation rates for students from all ethnic groups rose and annual dropout rates for all students, particularly minority students, declined.

"Each year Florida is improving the academic success of all students but most gratifying are the tremendous academic accomplishments of students at risk," said Senator Evelyn Lynn, Chair of the Senate Education Committee. "Florida is leading the nation in demonstrating that with accountability and qualified, caring teachers all students can achieve."

Since 1999, Florida has more than doubled the number of high school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams. The number of African-American AP test takers has increased from 2,595 in 1999 to 7,260 in 2005, and the number of Hispanic test takers has nearly tripled from 6,181 in 1999 to 17,101 in 2005.

"Not only are more students graduating, they are also working harder during high school to prepare for college," said Commissioner Winn. "The College Board's Advanced Placement Report to the Nation 2005 showed Florida making the most progress of any state in students excelling on high school Advanced Placement exams with nearly one in five Florida public high school students proving mastery of a college-level AP exam by scoring a Level 3 or higher."

Additionally, Florida students' participation in the SAT and Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) continues to climb. This year, the largest number ever of Florida students took the SAT, which represents a seven percent increase from last year. Minority student participation increased from 39 percent in 1999 to 44 percent in 2005. In the class of 2005, there was a 15.5 percent increase in the number of African-American students taking the SAT compared to an 11 percent increase nationwide. The number of Hispanic students taking the exam increased 24.7 percent compared to a 17.8 percent increase nationwide.

"It is encouraging to see the hard work of education reform being reflected in our statistics," said Representative Dennis Baxley, chair of the House Education Council. "While we have many miles to go in improving education in Florida, there is clear evidence we are on the right track."

Other highlights include an unprecedented increase in spending on education and an increase in high performing schools.