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Press Release

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

DOE Press Office
(850) 245-0413

Florida Test-Score Gains Real

- New analysis confirms decade of true progress in education -

Tallahassee, Fla., August 14, 2012 - A new study of Florida test-score gains confirms the state's position as one of the nation's most rapidly improving school systems. In recent years, evidence of Florida's consistent improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress has garnered attention across the U.S. Some researchers have alleged the improvement in fourth grade test scores was apparent, not real, however, suggesting that the gains were inflated by the retention of low-performing third graders after 2002, when Florida began its retention policy.

Those claims are shown to be seriously overstated in a new analysis of third grade performance conducted by Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. By looking at the individual test scores of each student in Florida, Winters is able to identify gains in performance at the third-grade level that were not influenced by the retention policy. Florida's robust education data systems house student performance information for all students in the state. Winters examined the isolated Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores for those students who completed third grade for the first time. By doing so, he excludes from the analysis all students who remained at this grade level as a result of Florida's third grade retention policy.

The results of the study show student gains in both reading and math, with the largest gains observed in math. While the gains among these initial third graders are not as dramatic as the fourth grade gains, Winters found "the gains among initial third graders were very substantial," about 0.36 standard deviations between 1998 and 2009 - roughly a full additional year of academic progress. The scores are "more than enough to justify Florida's claims that its gains have outpaced those in most other states." Winters also identified even greater progress by the most disadvantaged students. For example, those in the lowest 10 percent improved by more than half a standard deviation - about a year and a half worth of improvement.

The full analysis, "Florida Defeats the Skeptics: Test scores show real progress in the Sunshine State," will appear in the fall 2012 issue of Education Next and is available online at

About the Author: Marcus Winters is senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for State and Local Leadership and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He is available for interviews.

About Education Next: Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to looking at hard facts about school reform. Other sponsoring institutions are the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. For more information about Education Next, please visit