Education Week: Florida public schools No. 4 in America in K-12 achievement

Florida public schools now rank No. 4 in academic achievement, behind only Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia, according to the latest annual “Quality Counts” report from Education Week, released  this week. Though it’s not noted in the report, Florida has a far higher rate of low-income students than any state in the Top 10, with roughly 60 percent of its students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch.

The latest ranking is Florida’s highest ever. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

In fact, it punctuates a decade-long run.

Since 2009, Florida has, by Education Week’s analysis, finished at No. 7, No. 7, No. 6, No. 12, No. 12, No. 7, No. 7, No. 11, No. 11 and now No. 4. (The rankings stayed the same in some consecutive years because Education Week waited on national test scores, released every other year, to re-calculate.)

Education Week bases its analysis on a combination of common indicators: high school graduation rates; results on college-caliber Advanced Placement exams; and reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, considered the gold standard of standardized tests. It factors in proficiency and progress.

In a less tribal world, yet more good news about the relative performance of Florida public schools would finally knock the dunce cap off the state’s reputation, and spur more scrutiny of those trying to keep it there. The track record there isn’t encouraging.

Florida’s vision of education reform has been in the state and national spotlight for 20 years and remains “controversial” despite the rising trend lines. State policy makers have consistently emphasized a dual approach: Tough regulatory accountability measures like school grades. And an expansion of school choice options like charter schools and private school scholarships.

The latest news will come as a surprise to many parents – if they hear it – given the still oft-repeated myth that Florida schools are sub-par.

Twenty years ago, Florida’s education system was anemic, according to the most common indicators, with barely half its students graduating. But today, Florida’s public schools have never performed better, according to the same indicators. In some respects, they are among the best in the nation.

For example, Florida students rank No. 1, No. 1, No. 3 and No. 8 on the four core NAEP tests, once adjusted for demographics, according to the left-leaning Urban Institute. After the latest round of NAEP scores were released last spring, showing Florida had made the biggest gains in the nation, a top official at the National Center for Education Statistics told reporters, “Something very good is happening in Florida, obviously.”


How odd, then, that some who define themselves as public school defenders continue to double down on the notion that Florida public schools are being decimated – and to blame school choice for a decimation that so clearly isn’t happening.

How odd, too, that they so easily get away with it.


  1. Good! Now pay those of us on the front lines a professional salary for bringing in the results. Isn’t that what a “free market” education system that you here advocate would do for the excellent work we are doing? We rank 45th in teacher pay out of 50 states. I regularly advise my students against becoming a teacher. I will be out actively campaigning for Gillum because if history is any guide the Republicans will continue to disparage educators and offer a pittance of a salary. I have 22 years of experience and I make less than a teacher with 22 years experience made in 2008. The stress of this profession is NOT worth the pay. Many teachers are experiencing physical and mental health problems due to the ridiculous expectations we face on a daily basis.

    • Hi teacher. I mostly agree. IMHO, teachers and others can make a strong case that Florida teachers deserve big raises – not because the system is so mucked up (as is mostly being argued now), but because they have delivered OUTSTANDING results. The hitch, as you know, is a compensation system based almost exclusively on years of experience and degree level. IMHO, the amazing teachers who have taken Florida’s public education system out of the cellar and made it something we can all be proud of deserve huge raises, while those who haven’t delivered should either more quickly be exited or given more targeted help to improve. Also FWIW, many if not most of the school choice folks I know do NOT think in terms of markets and competition (that’s NOT a knock on those who do). They think about expanding options & access to those options so more parents can find what works for more kids, particularly those disadvantaged by income or disability.

  2. Questioning the facts here

    Hmmmm. So I guess this one is “fake” news?

    • Hi Questioning the fact here. No. Not fake news. But not a particularly sophisticated ranking system either. For example, it compares grad rates state by state – with no consideration for how different the graduation requirements are from state to state, or how challenging the demographics are from state to state. Florida has pretty tough graduation requirements, and among the most challenging demographics in America. There’s no perfect ranking system, but at least Education Week tried to factor in progress and gains over time, and to consider whether a state was narrowing achievement gaps with low-income students. Education Week is considered America’s paper of record when it comes to education news. It is highly regarded, has excellent reporters and analysts, and has put a lot of care into its Quality Counts reports. I don’t agree with all of it, either, but I think it’s a fairer and more thoughtful ranking system than the others that are out there.