Beginning in 2002, Florida adopted a series of reforms similar to those in SB 795. It has recently become clear that the initial proficiency gains Florida experienced were more likely the result of changes to the state’s proficiency standards rather than student progress. Looking at the National Assessment of Educational Progress—a consistent longitudinal assessment– Florida’s scores have not improved in recent years. North Carolina leads Florida on 7 of 8 available measures. [i]
Florida’s reforms are currently being called into question by education experts on the following grounds:
Student Retention – Senate Bill 795 would require that third graders who do not pass their end-of-grade reading tests be forced to repeat the grade, except in a few narrowly defined situations.
- In the first year Florida implemented this retention policy, 13.2% of third graders were retained.[ii] Almost half of North Carolina’s third graders would be at jeopardy of retention based on this year’s proficiency scores.
- Virtually all empirical studies on retention demonstrate that students who are retained are more likely to drop out of school.[iii]
- 4th grade writing proficiency rates have declined from 81% last year to 27% this year.[iv] Less than half of students in all grades were proficient in writing.
“Grades” for Schools – Senate Bill 795 would assign letter grades to, but it would not provide any additional resources to schools with poor grades.
- In Florida, state education administrators project that this year, the number of ‘A’ schools is expected to drop from 1,636 to 1,086, and the number of ‘F’ schools will more than triple from 38 to over 130.[v]
- To avoid chaos and growing outrage from parents, the state is lowering state standards to make it easier to demonstrate proficiency and will not allow schools to fall more than one letter grade in its grading system.
Doing Away with Career Status – Senate Bill 795 makes attracting highly qualified teachers more difficult by doing away with career status for teachers.
- Given that teachers earn about 15% less than other members of the work force with similar education and work experience,[vi] policies such as career status for teachers are needed to recruit the best and brightest to the profession.
Florida’s policies employ more sleight of hand to improve test scores on paper than they do substance to improve the quality of instruction that students receive in the classroom. North Carolina should instead pursue proven policies from states with the highest levels of student achievement.
[i] National Center for Education Statistics. Available at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/stt2011/2012454FL4.pdf
[ii] “Florida Formula for Student Achievement: Lessons for the Nation”. Foundation for Excellence in Education. Presentation given by Patricia Levasque to the NCGA House Education Committee, February 8, 2012.
[iii] “Why Students Drop Out and What Can Be Done”, Paper prepared for the Conference, “Dropouts in America: How Severe is the Problem? What Do We Know about Intervention and Prevention?” Harvard University, January 13, 2001.
[iv] Florida Department of Education, Division of Accountability, Research, and Measurement. Available at http://www.fldoe.org/arm/.
[v] “After FCAT Scores Plunge, State Quickly Lowers the Passing Grade”, Miami Herald, May 15th, 2012. Available at http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/15/2800698/schools-wont-be-held-accou....
[vi] “The Teaching Penalty”, Economic Policy Institute, 2008. Available at http://www.procon.org/sourcefiles/epi-teacher-pay.pdf