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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Florida's SAT scores sink

From the St. Petersburg Times Gradebook

by Jeff Solochek

More than 12,000 additional Florida public high school students took the SAT this year. But their overall results dropped, and continued to trail the national average.

Florida's combined average score was 1,447. The national benchmark, which 43 percent of students across the country attained, is 1,550. (See the national news release and charts here.)

Florida education commissioner Gerard Robinson put a positive spin on the results:

“Today’s release of Florida’s SAT results brings with it very positive news regarding the participation of our students on this important college entrance exam. According to the College Board’s report, nearly 12,000 additional public school students took the exam last year in Florida, highlighting the excellent work going on to introduce more students to the college-going process.

“As Florida continues to raise its standards toward college and career readiness, some temporary decreases in overall performance may occur as increased numbers of students acclimate to higher expectations and increased rigor. This is the case with Florida’s average SAT scores which declined significantly this year in all three tested subject areas. Although performance decreases are never welcome, our transition to higher standards is critical if we are to graduate all our students with the skills and knowledge they need to find success at the next level.

“Although not part of the SAT report, preliminary Advanced Placement results show increases in both the participation and performance of our students on these exams. This positive trend has been growing in intensity over the years and is a direct result of our emphasis on encouraging more students to tap into their academic potential. I am confident that a similar positive trend will take place with our SAT results as our commitment to the increased college and career readiness of our students continues to take root throughout our schools.”

He was much more optimistic than other observers from the opposite sides of the reform debate.

Jeanne Allen, of the school choice-friendly Center for Education reform, blasted the outcomes. "Student achievement remains stagnant, and we continue to let failure fester in our education system jeopardizing the future of our children and our country," she said in a release. "The College Board highlights that more students than ever are taking the SAT for college admissions. But, the dramatic drop in scores over the past five years and the failure to improve shines a spotlight on the truth – more of our students continue to be underserved by their schools."

Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, which opposes high-stakes testing, used the score release to again pan No Child Left Behind. "Proponents of NCLB and similar state-level testing programs promised that overall achievement would improve while score gaps would narrow," Schaeffer said in a release. "Precisely the opposite has taken place. Policymakers need to embrace very different policies if they are committed to real education reform."

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