Florida’s successful melding of challenging academic standards, rigorous assessments and a robust accountability system have resulted in record increases in student achievement – especially for struggling students.

Early Literacy

Children who are not reading proficiently in third grade are four times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate from high school, according to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. For low-income black and Hispanic students, that likelihood doubles.

Florida’s K-3 Reading policy was developed to ensure all students enter fourth grade with the strong literacy skills they will need to learn, graduate and succeed.

In 1998, nearly half of Florida’s fourth graders were reading severely below grade level.

Today, Florida is making progress, outperforming the national average in every subgroup on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 4th Grade Reading in 2017.

Florida students outperformed the national average in EVERY subgroup for fourth grade reading:

  • Florida fourth graders outperform the national average by more than half a grade level.
  • Students with disabilities perform better than their peers by two full grade levels.
  • Low-income students outperform their peers by a grade level
  • Hispanic students outperform their peers by one and a half grade levels.
  • African American students outperform their peers by more than half a grade level.

Florida was the first state to implement comprehensive reforms. In recent years, a number of other states have followed Florida’s lead. Florida’s policymakers designed these reforms to strengthen the traditional public school system, offering parents the widest range of choice options to spur competition and innovation.

The result has been a systematic transformation and dramatic improvement in students’ academic achievement. Florida’s success dispels common myths about education.

The progress also proves all students can learn, all students should learn at least a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s time, all students will achieve when schools are organized around the singular goal of learning and all students will excel when education is customized to maximize their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.

Long-term Reading Progress:

By the third grade, students must make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. If they do not, they cannot do their coursework. Each year, as the grade level demands go up, students tend to fall further behind and become outsiders inside the classroom.

According to NAEP, Florida fourth graders were more than a half-grade level behind their national peers in the 1990s. Now they are outperforming their national peers.


Education Funding

The way states fund student education can support forward-looking solutions or thwart progress with archaic and  obsolete constraints. In many states, outdated funding formulas force districts to focus on inputs rather than the unique needs of each child. On the other hand, student-centered funding formulas are fair, transparent and promote  local empowerment and choice.

Florida’s student-centered funding  prioritizes each child’s learning, where all students receive base funding—with additional amounts depending on student characteristics—and spending follows the child.

School Accountability

In 1999, Florida made the revolutionary decision to grade schools on an A-F scale just like students.

An A-F School Grading policy that measures what matters: overall student performance and progress, with extra focus on struggling students, and graduation rates and college and career readiness in high school.

School grades are calculated annually based on up to 11 components, including student achievement and learning gains on statewide, standardized assessments and high school graduation rate. School grading works by holding all schools to the same high expectations and clearly communicating the results to parents.

Statewide Results from the Florida Department of Education:
  • Florida now has more than 1,000 “A” schools (1,027 schools) up from 987 in 2017 and 763 in 2016. The percentage of schools earning an “A” increased to 32 percent, up from 30 percent in 2016-17.
  • The percentage of schools earning an “A” or “B” grade increased to 58 percent compared to 56 percent last year.
  • A total of 1,408 schools maintained an “A” grade (793 schools) or increased their grade (615 schools) in 2017-18.
  • High schools had the largest increase in the percentage of schools improving their grade, with 26 percent (115 schools) moving up one or more letter grade.
  • The number of “F” schools decreased by 23 percent (10 schools), from 43 schools in 2016-17 to 33 schools in 2017-18.
Low-Performing Schools:
  • Ninety-six percent of schools graded “F” in 2016-17 improved their grade in 2017-18 by one or more letter grade (23 of 24 schools).
  • Sixty-eight percent of schools that earned a “D” or “F” grade in 2016-17 improved by at least one letter grade in 2017-18 (159 schools).
  • Sixty-two percent of schools in the second or third year of implementing their turnaround plan improved their letter grade (23 schools).

To learn more, visit Florida Department of Education – School Grades.