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PRESS RELEASE

January 3, 2007

Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Members of the media:

Pasted below are the bullet points promised by Commissioner Winn during today's media briefing call regarding the Quality Counts 2007 report released by Education Week.

If you have any questions, please contact the Florida Department of Education Office of Communications at (850) 245-0413.

Quality Counts 2007 Florida Fact Sheet

Overview

  • The Quality Counts 2007 rankings assess a number of important indicators of students' success, such as accountability, early education and academic standards.
  • In previous years, states received letter grades for each indicator.
  • This year, the Editorial Projects in Education (group that compiles the report) adopted a new method and set of criteria to develop a report that moves away from an exclusive focus on K-12 education to a broader scope that looks at the performance across various sectors including preschool, postsecondary education and employment.
  • New this year is the "Chance-for-Success Index," which is based on 13 indicators that highlight whether young children begin school well prepared, succeed at the elementary and secondary school levels and hit critical education and economic benchmarks as adults.
  • States were compared against the national averages for each of these indicators and either received or lost points for exceeding or falling below these national averages.
  • Florida ranked near the middle at 31, with a state score of -4 (Virginia was the highest ranking with +22 and New Mexico the lowest ranking with -23).
  • States of similar size and racial diversity — California (-6) and Texas (-15) — ranked below Florida with the exception of New York (+8), which ranked above.
  • The report highlights some of the successes Florida has experienced in recent years, such as achievement gains on NAEP and growth in the high school graduation rate, and underscores the need for secondary reform recently enacted through the A++ Plan for Education.
  • Florida receives high marks for high percentages of parental employment, preschool enrollment, kindergarten enrollment, and steady employment (adults in the labor force).
  • Only six states have more parents not fluent in English than Florida (New York, California, Nevada, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico); however, the Sunshine State remains equal to or above the national average in 12 of 15 K-12 student achievement indicators.
  • The report's "Evaluation of K-12 Achievement" revealed that Florida has made significant progress in improving student performance and received +6 points for the "change indicators" portion of this ranking — bested only by Pennsylvania, Texas and Arizona.
  • Florida received its highest ranking in the "State K-12 Policy Indicators" section — fourth in the nation with 12 of 15 state K-12 policies.
  • This month, the State Board of Education will review and approve revised Reading and Language Arts standards that include grade-specific expectations bringing Florida into alignment with the criteria by which this indicator was judged.

Preschool & Kindergarten

  • The Quality Counts 2007 report relies on several-year-old data and does not acknowledge that Florida last year implemented a Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Program, which provides free, quality early learning opportunities open to all of the state's four-year-olds
  • For the current year, the State of Florida appropriated $388 million for the VPK program and $97 in FEFP-funded preschool programs for children with disabilities.
  • Florida's actual kindergarten participation rate is over 99 percent for five-year-olds (public and private schools), as opposed the rate presented in the Quality Counts report (79.1 percent), which is based on five and six-year-olds.
  • In addition, Florida has established early learning curricula standards, which are followed by providers participating in the Voluntary Prekindergarten Program.

Achievement Gap

  • In addition to the Florida's average eighth grade "poverty gap" in math exceeding the national average based on NAEP scale score changes, the closing of the achievement gap between students participating in the free and reduced-priced lunch program and those not eligible for the program is also evident in the state's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) results.
  • The gap between these two groups has closed in every grade, except ninth grade reading, in math and reading from 2003 to 2005 (same dates as the NAEP comparison in Quality Counts 2007 report).

High School Graduation

  • The report also highlights increases in Florida's high school graduation rate over time (from 2000 to 2003) and high Advanced Placement test scores (passing score of 3, 4 or 5).
  • It should be noted that the Quality Counts 2007 uses its own calculation of each state's high school graduation rate and the data used in this report is from 2003.
  • Florida's high school graduation rate for the 2005-2006 school year was 71 percent (versus 57.5 percent for 2003 used in the report) and is calculated using a highly accurate method that follows every single student from the time they enter high school until the time they are expected to graduate four years later.

Postsecondary Education

  • Only South Dakota had a higher community college "persistence in the first year" rate — only two percentage points above Florida.
  • Florida falls $584 below the national average when it comes to postsecondary financial aid; however, only 16 states have a lower total cost for college (including room, board and tuition) than Florida.
  • Florida's public universities cost approximately $2,000 les per student than the national average.