The Florida Story encompasses a combination of reforms – rigorous academic standards, standardized measurement, data-based accountability, effective teaching, outcome-based funding and educational opportunity – to improve the quality of education for students in the Sunshine State.
Florida has done what few other states have accomplished – reversed a generation of decline in public schools. The recipe for Florida’s success is a model for the nation.Patricia Levesque, Executive Director
A decade ago, the Sunshine State ranked at the bottom nationally. Nearly one-third of third graders couldn’t read on grade level and close to half of fourth graders were functionally illiterate. Too many students were dropping out of school, while those who stayed weren’t gaining the knowledge to succeed after graduation.
So much has changed since then. Today, Florida’s elementary and middle school students are reading above the national average. Math proficiency is on the rise. More students are taking and passing rigorous courses that prepare them for college. And the graduation rate has jumped by double digits, plus fewer students are dropping out.
Our success was built on a foundation of core principles. Starting with the A+ Plan in 1999 and continuing today, our reforms combine high expectations, standardized measurement, a clear and achievable system of accountability, rewards and consequences for performance, effective teaching in the classroom and more choices to customize education to each student.
The path to rising student achievement was not easy or painless. In the first year schools were graded on the simple A-F letter scale, Florida had more Ds and Fs than As and Bs. When Florida ended social promotion for third graders who couldn’t read, the retention rate skyrocketed. Every time we raised the bar, scores and grades dropped – for a time – but then slowly climbed back to the higher levels of achievement.
Thanks to the courageous leadership of the Florida Legislature, the state didn’t abandon reform when times got tough. Instead, lawmakers focused on the long-term benefits of providing a quality education to every student in our state.
While Florida is now a model for the nation, our job is far from done. We must continue to reform education to keep the promise of a quality education for all Sunshine State students.Patricia Levesque, Executive Director