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PRESS RELEASE

January 5, 2007

Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Commissioner Winn Announces Department of Education 2006 Year in Review
Student performance continues to rise

TALLAHASSEE — State Board of Education Chairman T. Willard Fair and Education Commissioner John L. Winn today announced the Department of Education's 2006 Year in Review. Student academic performance and achievement are at record levels, continuing their rise since the implementation of the A+ Plan for Education in 1999.

"Florida students have shown remarkable gains in academic achievement, but we must never rest on the laurels of past accomplishments," said Chairman Fair. "With the support of Governor Crist and the Florida Legislature, we will build upon these successes and work together toward our collective goal of improving education for every single student in our state."

With the passage of the A++ Plan for Education by the 2006 Legislature, Florida continues to lead the nation in cutting-edge education reform. Middle school students will, for the first time, complete a personalized academic and career plan during their seventh or eighth grade year. The Florida Academic Counseling and Tracking for Students web site (FACTS.org), an online advising system, will better engage students in planning and making decisions for their future.

"These bold reforms inject a new vision for education in Florida," said Commissioner Winn. "I am optimistic these measures will better prepare middle and high school students for the challenges ahead of them."

Ninth graders entering high school in the 2007-08 school year will now be required to earn 16 core academic credits and eight elective credits in order to graduate with a high school diploma. As part of their eight electives, they will select a four credit major area of interest as part of their personalized education and career plan.

"We have seen tremendous gains in student performance over the past eight years, particularly among some of our most struggling students" said State Board of Education Vice Chairman Philip Handy. "As new leadership takes the helm, I am confident that we will sustain the momentum."

Highlights from 2006 include:

  • Results of the 2006 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) cycle show student performance continues to climb, with record numbers of students in grades three through 10 proficient. Seventy percent of elementary school students are performing at or above achievement level 3 (on grade level), up from 54 percent in 2001. Middle and high school students achieved similar results, with 57 percent of middle school students reading at or above grade level (up from 48 percent in 2001) and 37 percent of high school students scoring at or above grade level (up from 32 percent in 2001).

  • Florida continues to close the achievement gap, with 39 percent of African-American third through tenth grade students reading at or above grade level, up from 26 percent in 2001. Hispanic students also made jumps in achievement, with 50 percent reading at or above grade level, up from only 35 percent in 2001.

  • The 2006 Florida Legislature approved a record-breaking $23 billion budget for K-20 education. This will ensure that our teachers will be rewarded for outstanding student performance, more students will succeed in reading with $111.8 million dedicated to reading instruction, and an increase of 43 percent in class size reduction operating funds over last year will assist school districts in their efforts to comply with the requirements of the voter-mandated amendment. In addition, per pupil spending increased 9 percent and student financial aid realized a 21 percent increase from 2005.

  • For the first time, parents are now able to view their child's FCAT reading and mathematics scores on the Internet. In addition, the secure web site, www.fcatparentnetwork.com, features detailed information on the meaning of the scores and provides resources to improve student performance in the future.

  • A record number of Florida schools earned an "A" or "B" school grade. Since the implementation of the A+ Plan for Education in 1999, the number of schools earning an "A" or "B" jumped from 515 to 2,077. This is four times the number of high performing schools seven years ago, and 233 more than in 2005. In addition, the number of failing schools is on the decline, down to a fourth of the number of failing schools in 1999. This year, nearly 1,800 public schools statewide received $157.6 million in school recognition awards for earning an "A" or improving at least one school letter grade from the previous year.

  • The A++ Plan for Education, passed by the 2006 Legislature, implements middle and high school reform measures that will inject rigor and relevance into the curriculum and classrooms. Students will have more choices and more opportunities to cultivate their interests and career goals. The Department of Education worked with school districts across the state to identify and approve 440 major areas of interest that will be part of required high school coursework for students entering ninth grade in the fall of 2007.

  • A record number of Florida high school graduates — 66,299 — took the American College Test (ACT) in 2006, up from 58,302 in 2005. Of all high school graduates, 44 percent took the ACT in Florida compared to 40 percent nationally. Florida's Hispanic students continue to outscore Hispanic students across the nation with an average composite score of 19.6 compared to the national average of 18.6.

    Additionally, record numbers of Florida students are taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). More than 94,601, or 63 percent, of Florida's 2006 high school graduates took the SAT. This is the largest number of Florida students to ever take the SAT. The most noteworthy increase in the number of Florida students taking the SAT is among minority students. Overall, minority student participation has increased from 39 percent in 1999 to 44 percent in 2006. Nationwide, the percentage of minority test-takers has increased, but at a slower rate than in Florida. In Florida, African-American students comprise 14 percent of the test takers, compared to 11 percent nationwide. Hispanic students in Florida comprise 21 percent of the test-takers, compared to 11 percent nationwide. Also, Florida saw the greatest increase in public school Advanced Placement (AP) exam-takers compared to all other states from 2005 to 2006.

  • Florida's high school graduation rate was 71 percent in 2005-06, a slight decrease from 71.9 percent the previous year. Even with the decline, more students than ever — 136,070 — graduated on time in 2005-06, an increase of 4,563 students. A Dropout Prevention Task Force was convened to develop strategies to help Florida's struggling students stay committed to graduation.

To review media announcements from 2006 visit the press room at www.fldoe.org/news/.