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PRESS RELEASE

January 9, 2008

Tom Butler
(850) 245-0413

Florida's Schools Move Up In Ranking To 14th Place
~ 2008 Quality Counts report highlights Florida's successes ~

TALLAHASSEE – Commissioner of Education Eric J. Smith today announced that Florida moved from 31st place to 14th place in the 2008 Quality Counts: Tapping into Teaching report. The report is compiled by Education Week and rates education in the 50 states and District of Columbia.

The 12th edition of Quality Counts grades the states based on performance and policy in six distinct areas: Chance for Success; K-12 Achievement; Standards, Assessments, and Accountability; Transitions and Alignment; the Teaching Profession; and School Finance. Florida ranked above the national average in four of the six areas. A variety of sources are used for the annual evaluations, including data from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Florida recently surpassed the national average in both fourth grade reading and mathematics and, for the first time, matched the national average for eighth grade reading.

"It's encouraging to see continued improvements and reforms throughout our K-12 education system working to better our students," said Commissioner Smith. "The report highlights the policy decisions that have put us on the right track in public education, as well as opportunities for us to further excel."

This year, Quality Counts expanded their Teaching Profession benchmarks to look more broadly at the states' roles in attracting, developing, deploying and retaining the best education workforce possible. With a state grade of a B and a score of 83.2, Florida's fourth place ranking exceeded the national average by 10.2 points. Florida was also recognized as one of only 12 states that used data to track the link between teachers' IDs to data on their students’ performance, and one of only four states that can match student records among the elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels.

"This report recognizes that student success in the future rests not just on the quality of our K-12 education system but with many partners working together to prepare students for the future, from preschool through college, in and out of the classroom," said State Board of Education Chairman T. Willard Fair. "Let this inspire us to remain unyielding and provide a catalyst to urge further educational progress."

In the Standards, Assessments and Accountability section, Florida ranks 12th with a state grade of an A- and a score of 90.8. This section looked at the standards, assessments, and accountability systems states have enacted, as well as gains on NAEP. The national average was a grade of a B with a score of 83.6. Florida surpassed the national average by 7.2 points. Florida's high score was due in part to its extensive data collection system and the longitudinal PreK-20 data warehouse.

"In today’s demanding global economy, this report indicates that Florida’s quality K-12 education system works to prepare students for the future," said The Florida Council of 100 President Susan Pareigis. "By transitioning students from postsecondary education and the workforce, Florida is poised to compete more effectively on an international level."

The K-12 Achievement section focused on student learning in elementary through high school. This section also analyzed achievement gaps between poor and non-poor students, as well as progress in closing those gaps. Florida finished seventh nationally, a result that can be attributed to the state's reform efforts, literacy initiatives, and success in closing the achievement gap.

"As a parent, my child's education is a top priority," said Tampa-area parent Stephanie Brazell. "Results from a trusted and respected publication prove that Florida is well equipped to teach a future generation of leaders."

Florida's grade in the Transitions and Alignment category was a C+ and a score of 78.6, well above the national average of 73.3 points. This section indicates if states have adopted a definition of school readiness, require all high school students to complete a college-preparatory curriculum to earn a diploma, and adopted definitions of college and workforce readiness.

“Florida has made tremendous improvements throughout the early childhood benchmarks, due largely in-part to the Voluntary Pre Kindergarten program; but we recognize the work is far from finished,” said Commissioner Smith. “By implementing newly created programs, such as the Go Higher! Task Force, we will begin to see improvements transitioning students into college or the workforce.”

For more information, please visit, http://www.edweek.org/ew/toc/2008/01/10/index.html.