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Press Release

Monday, January 10, 2011

DOE Press Office
(850) 245-0413

2010: A Year to Remember in Florida Education

~ Sunshine State embarks on unprecedented journey of education reform amidst year of progress and challenge ~

TALLAHASSEE – With 2010 firmly in the rearview mirror and the arrival of the latest Quality Counts report announcing national education rankings only a day away, a look back reveals a year of tremendous accomplishment, adversity and progress for education in the Sunshine State. From an eighth place ranking by last year’s Quality Counts report and a $700 million win in the national Race to the Top competition, to an eighth straight year of the Florida College System leading the nation in an array of degree programs, Florida continues to demonstrate that education reform and success go hand in hand.

“Whether it’s our public school classrooms, state college lecture halls, workforce centers or vocational rehabilitation and blind services programs, Floridians should be proud of the educational strides our state has made this past year,” said outgoing State Board of Education Chairman T. Willard Fair. “Despite the challenges we have faced, our resilience and determination to build a better future for our children has won out yet again and our future remains brighter because of it.”

2010’s Progress and Student Achievement include:
Eighth Place National Ranking: The 2010 Quality Counts report by Education Week, which tracks state policies and performance across key areas of education, ranked Florida eighth in the nation. This jump continues the trend the state has seen progressing to 14th in 2008 and 10th in 2009.

Nationally Renowned State College System: For the eighth year in a row, Community College Week’s annual top 100 report honored Florida’s state colleges with top spots in terms of degrees earned for a variety of categories. Additionally, North Florida Community College (NFCC), the smallest college in the Florida College System, was named as one of America’s best community colleges in the Washington Monthly magazine’s 2010 College Rankings edition, and the College System itself became the newest member of the Alliance of States—an organization comprised of 24 states united to focus on dramatically increasing the nation’s college completion rate.

Graduation Rate Climbs to Highest Point: Florida’s graduation rate climbed more than two-and-a-half percentage points last year to 79 percent. Included in the increase was a 3.5 percentage point increase for African-American students, a 3.2 percentage point increase for Hispanic students and a 2.3 percentage point increase for White students.

Minority Students Outpace Nation in Reading: The latest reading results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the gold standard for measurement of student achievement across the nation, indicate that Florida’s minority students continue to perform above the national average in both 4th and 8th grade reading. According to the results, reading scores for African-American 4th and 8th grade students are seven and five points higher than their national counterparts, respectively, and Hispanic students outpaced their peers across the country by 19 points in 4th grade and 12 in 8th grade.

Students better prepared for Kindergarten: More than 120,000 students entered kindergarten better prepared in 2010 as a result of their participation in a Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program. Children who completed VPK last year performed better on key Kindergarten readiness measures than children who did not participate. Additionally, children who only attended a portion of a VPK program outperformed students who had no exposure to the program at all.

Student Performance Soaring in More Rigorous Coursework: More rigorous and focused coursework such as Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment and Industry Certification helps students gain better preparedness for success in college or career. In 2010, the number of AP exams administered to Florida’s public school students increased 19.5 percent and the number of students receiving a passing score on an AP exam jumped 14.5 percent. At the same time, participation in Dual Enrollment coursework increased 18.4 percent, with a 12.2 percent increase in the number of students earning college credit in these courses. Additionally, the number of students earning Industry Certification increased from 2,576 students in 2008-09 to 14,230 last year.

2010’s Reform Efforts include:
$700 million Race to the Top Win: In August, Florida was named a winner in the Race to the Top competition, securing $700 million in federal funds to revolutionize the state’s education system. The four-year grant focuses on dramatically improving academic performance, providing assistance to the most struggling schools, enriching and expanding technology and data systems, and ensuring all students have access to highly effective teachers and leaders.

Adoption of Common Core Standards: The State Board of Education officially adopted the Common Core State Standards for English/Language Arts and Mathematics last year. The Board’s approval not only strengthens Florida’s curriculum standards in these critical subjects, but it lays the groundwork for the comparison of Florida’s academic progress with the nation and the world.

Increased Graduation Requirements: New graduation requirements were introduced last year through Senate Bill 4 to ensure students are leaving high school better prepared for college or career. Initially, ninth-graders in the 2010-11 school year will need to earn credit in Geometry and must take an End-of-Course (EOC) exam in Algebra I that will be a part of their course average. These new requirements will expand over the next few years, culminating in 2013-14 when students will need to pass EOCs in Algebra 1, Geometry, and Biology to earn course credit, and will need to earn credit in Chemistry or Physics and an equally rigorous science course in order to graduate with a Florida standard diploma.

Expanded High School Grading Formula: Florida implemented a new high school grading formula in 2010 that gives parents a more comprehensive look at the education being offered by their child’s school. In addition to FCAT results, the formula takes into account the school’s graduation rate, performance and participation in rigorous coursework, and college and career readiness. Florida’s schools rose to the challenge of meeting these new measures, resulting in a record number of “A” and “B” high schools for the 2009-10 school year.

“I’m proud of each and every education stakeholder in Florida for all the work and support they contributed last year, transforming 2010 into a banner year for our children,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Dr. Eric J. Smith. “The coming years will certainly contain their own challenges, but the momentum we are building through groundbreaking new initiatives like Race to the Top will help ensure that our work remains successful and students throughout the state continue to find success.”

To learn more about education news and events taking place in Florida, visit Press Releases.