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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

High stakes testing has crippled Florida's future. Thanks Job Jeb Bush

From the St. Petersburg Times Gradebook

by Jeff Solochek

If you buy into the notion that college entrance exams such as the ACT and SAT give a good indication into how ready high school seniors are for higher education, then you are unlikely to be impressed with Florida's results in the latest ACT release.

Sunshine State seniors who took the ACT in 2011 (about two thirds of graduates sat for the test) earned the third lowest composite score in the nation, 19.6 out of 36. That's marginally up from a year ago, but down from 2007 and 2008 scores. Only Mississippi and Tennessee students fared worse this year.

Florida's average scores in English, math, reading and science all came in below the national average, with its science score logging in at the 50th of 51, behind only Mississippi. (See the breakdown attached below.) "It’s not inappropriate to speculate that if every high school graduate in Florida took the ACT that the state’s average science score would decline, perhaps enough to fall below Mississippi," FSU physics professor Paul Cottle writes on his blog.

The news doesn't get much better when looking at demographics. Florida's white, Asian and multi-racial students carried the state's low rating, with each group scoring above the state average; whites and Asians also scored above the national average. That means Florida's African-American and Hispanic students, who comprised 49 percent of the test takers, scored well below the state and national composite with essentially stagnant results over five years. (See the Florida profile here.)

Bob Schaeffer of the anti high-stakes testing group FairTest took the opportunity of the poor outcomes to suggest that perhaps the nation's affection with accountability testing has taken public education in the wrong direction.

"Test-driven policies which claim to be improving U.S. public schools have, in fact, failed by their own standards," Schaeffer said in a release. "Proponents of No Child Left Behind and similar state-level high-stakes testing programs, such as exit exams, made two promises: their strategy would boost overall academic performance, and it would narrow historic achievement gaps between ethnic groups. But, academic gains, as measured by ACT, are stagnant, and racial gaps are increasing."

Florida commissioner Gerard Robinson called the state's results "unacceptably low," and said the state must boost career and college readiness of students. He contended the state is on the right path for that goal.

"Our current education reform strategies are aligned with this exact goal and I am confident that through the continued hard work of our educators and school leaders we will see significant progress in this area in the years ahead," he said in a statement

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