Florida schools drop out of Top 10 ranking

For several years, Florida’s political leaders, including Gov. Rick Scott, have touted across the state that their public schools were among the nation’s best. But one set of rankings — which just two years ago put Florida in the top 10 — has come out with a revamped formula that saw Florida tumble to the 28th best school system in the nation.

Education Week on Thursday released its “Quality Counts” rankings for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The last time the rankings were released Florida was 6th.

Since then Education Week has changed the formula to focus more on “outcomes” instead of policies and procedures. Some of the criteria that aided Florida in the past — such as its system for grading and evaluating schools — had helped its overall grade.

But those criteria were eliminated and the state’s overall grade slid from a B- in 2013 to a C. This year’s national average is C.

The state did rank 7th nationally overall for its student achievement levels and got high marks for reading scores among 4th and 8th graders.

But Florida also earned poor scores elsewhere especially on how much money it spends on schools. Florida ranked near the bottom nationally in several spending categories including 43rd in how much it spends on each student.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education called the financial rankings “unfair” because they reflect spending as of 2012.

The state had cut spending on public schools by more than $1 billion in 2011 due to a budget shortfall although much of that spending was restored the following year.

Florida has since begun to ramp up its spending since then and Scott has pledged to push for record spending levels on public schools in the coming year.

Florida also had mediocre to low scores for its graduation rate, middle school math scores and how successful adults were in obtaining degrees and obtaining good paying jobs.

Not surprisingly, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart focused on the positive parts of the new rankings.

“As a result of Florida’s hard-working teachers, Florida students are once again being recognized for their outstanding performance,” Stewart said in a statement. “Today’s news is evidence that the state’s focus on student achievement is working and Florida has a good return on its investment in education.”

Two years ago when Florida was ranked 6th, Stewart said the ranking “shows our investment in education is paying off and we are moving in the right direction.”

GARY FINEOUT Associated Press TALLAHASSEE

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