Florida is and isn’t Top 10 in latest Education Week rankings

EdWeek QC coverAfter a strong run of top-tier showings, Florida public schools are No. 28 in the latest overall rankings from Education Week, but continue to place in the Top 10 in academic achievement.

Education Week moved to a slimmed-down version of its annual “Quality Counts” analysis this year, after not giving overall grades or ranks to states last year. The new version, released Thursday, is based on three broad categories rather than six, and does not include several categories in which Florida traditionally scored well, including standards and accountability, and the teaching profession.

Between 2009 and 2013, Florida finished at No. 11, No. 5, No. 8, No. 11 and No. 6 in overall rank. EdWeek cautioned that this year’s overall grades are not directly comparable to past years because of the change in scoring criteria.

In the K-12 achievement category, Florida finished in the same spot as last year, No. 7, but the data in that category was not updated from last year (it’s typically updated every other year). Between 2009 and 2013, Florida finished at No. 7, No. 7, No. 6, No. 12 and No. 12 in achievement, according to EdWeek’s analyses, which look at performance and progress with NAEP scores, AP results and graduation rates.

Supporters of Florida education policy have often touted the rankings as another credible indicator of the state’s steady progress since the late 1990s. Critics have often ignored or dismissed them.

In overall rank, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and Vermont finished at the top this year, all earning B grades. Florida’s overall grade is a C, the same as the nation’s.

In achievement, Florida finished behind Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont and Minnesota and ahead of Pennsylvania, Washington and Virginia. Florida has a far higher rate of low-income students than any of them (57.6 percent, according to the most recent federal data, compared to 35.1 percent for front-runner Massachusetts.) It was given a C in the category, while the nation earned a C-.

This year’s report also gives Florida a D+ and No. 37 ranking in school finance (the state’s per-pupil funding has long lagged behind most other states) and a C and No. 34 ranking for the “chance for success” index. The latter incorporates 13 indicators, including family income and parents’ education levels.

The latest report also includes an early education index, based on eight pre-K and kindergarten measures. Florida earned a C- and No. 18 rank in that category, which was not rolled into overall grades. The national average was D+.

Quality Counts coverage in Florida: Orlando Sentinel. StateImpact Florida, Associated Press, Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Tribune. Palm Beach Post. WFSU. Miami Herald.

Quality Counts coverage elsewhere: Baltimore Sun. Associated Press (Maryland)Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Associated Press (Mississippi)Arkansas Times-RecordWPRI (Rhode Island). KPCC (California)Columbus Dispatch. The OklahomanOklahomaWatch. The Oregonian. Colorado Public RadioU.S. News & World Report.

This post is a work in progress. Check back for updates.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/redefinedonline.