Florida public schools again rank high on academic outcomes

Florida public schools
A new analysis by Reason magazine of Florida’s public education system shows that, when focused on actual academic outcomes, the rhetoric of the system being in crisis again does not match the reality.

Is Florida’s public education system as bad as many of its critics suggest? Yet another analysis, focused exclusively on actual academic outcomes, says no. In fact, according to Reason magazine, Florida ranks No. 3 in K-12 educational quality and No. 1 in educational efficiency.

Released this week, Reason’s ranking based on outcomes isn’t that far off from Education Week’s ranking based on outcomes. Last month, Education Week ranked Florida No. 4 in the nation in “K-12 Achievement.”

Reason’s ranking relied on reading, math and science scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also called “The Nation’s Report Card.” Education Week’s achievement ranking is based on NAEP reading and math scores; results on Advanced Placement exams; and graduation rates.

Education Week ranks states on three categories: “Chance For Success,” “School Finance,” and “K-12 Achievement.” These categories are compiled to produce an overall ranking. While Florida ranks No. 4 on K-12 Achievement, according to Education Week, the inclusion of the other categories drops the Sunshine State’s overall ranking to No. 29.

Other outlets, like U.S. News, also use data besides academic outcomes to determine rankings. The Reason study’s authors, Stan Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly, are not fans of this approach. They’re also not fans of using raw NAEP data without consideration for racial demographics, which they call “misleading.”

The combined methodological flaws lead to questionable, if not misleading, overall rankings, they write.

States like New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut dominate these rankings, not because they are great, but because they are small, rich and mostly white. Florida, like other racially diverse states with higher concentrations of poverty, sits further down the rankings.

Liebowitz and Kelly examined the rankings from Education Week and U.S. News and controlled for racial demographics. They tossed out data like per-pupil spending and number of students enrolled in pre-K.

Florida ends up No. 3 in “Quality.”

And while it is true Florida ranks toward the bottom in per-pupil spending, Florida’s education “Efficiency” ranked No. 1 in the nation. No other state gets a better bang for the buck than Florida.

Graph courtesy of Reason magazine

By Reason’s calculations, adjusting for factors such as race forced most of the rich white states of the northeast out of the Top 10, except for Massachusetts and New Jersey.

“Overall, our results demonstrate that existing state education rankings aren’t to be trusted,” concluded the researchers. “When those scores are corrected, the conventional narrative is turned on its head.”


One Comment

  1. The conclusion in the report that good teaching at a low price is ideal is untenable. It’s why there are 4,000 unfilled teaching positions in Florida. Way to go in supporting the GOP’s motto, “stack ‘em deep and teach ‘em cheap”. I can’t recommend anyone teach in Florida today.