I’ll Have What Florida is Having

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

In a recent article for the Goldwater Institute, I found that Florida’s Hispanic students outscore Arizona’s statewide average on fourth grade reading exams. Some readers emailed and wanted to know if this could be attributed to the fact that Florida’s Hispanic population is predominantly Cuban. The short answer is no, because the Hispanic population was also predominantly Cuban in the 1990s when scores were much, much lower.

Other inquiries involved questions about student poverty. Statewide averages for low-income students for Arizona and Florida are broadly similar, but I decided to investigate using the NAEP data. What I found was extraordinary.

Using the data analysis features on the NAEP website, you can get fourth grade reading scores broken down by both race and income. It is not only the case that Florida’s Hispanic students outscore the statewide average in Arizona, Florida’s low-income Hispanic students outscore the average Arizona student.

Arizona is not alone in this. Florida’s Free and Reduced lunch Hispanics also outscored the statewide average for all students on 4th grade reading of California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and New Mexico. They tied the statewide average for Alaska and South Carolina, and fell one scale point below Oregon and West Virginia.

In 2007, a family of four needed to earn $20,650 to qualify for a free lunch, $38,203 for a reduced price lunch. Nationwide, approximately 80 percent of free or reduced lunch children qualify for a free lunch.

Median family income in California, by comparison, is $64,563.

I appeared on a conference panel recently, and a fellow panelist noted the difference between a problem and a condition. A problem, she said, was something you tried to fix. A condition was something you had given up on and just grown to accept.

Low academic achievement for low-income and minority children is a problem not a condition. Florida under Jeb Bush put in testing and accountability with real consequences, implemented parental choice, reformed reading instruction, curtailed social promotion, liberalized teacher certification, and put in merit pay.

The results speak for themselves. To paraphrase that famous line from When Harry Met Sally: I’ll have what Florida is having.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the historic vote by Florida Democrats to expand the Step Up for Students tax-credit program.

34 Responses to I’ll Have What Florida is Having

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  2. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Mr. Ladner would then be endorsing a political tool to create a privatized education system along with charter schools since the A+ plan fails to measure instructional
    effectiveness. It’s a smoke and mirrors deception of an ill informed public. Don’t take what Florida is having! We have a gigantic dropout problem, one of the worst in the nation and the highest percentage I have seen is 78% of our college students require remediation. (Tampa Bay The gradebook, week of 8/4/08). Who wants that????

  3. matthewladner says:

    Ms. Hanfmann-

    So you believe that the NAEP is “smoke and mirrors?” Count me as part of the ill-informed public then, and do please feel free to elaborate as to how the smoke and mirrors deception works.

    Florida does indeed still have education challenges. The point of the piece was simply to note the progress made in recent years using a nearly universally respected source of testing data.

  4. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Mr. Ladner,
    May I direct your attention to the recent study “High Achievers in an Era of NCLB”?
    It speaks of the larger gains of the lowest 10% while the top 10% nearly stagnate.
    The A+ plan masks low growth in schools with high rates of proficiency, which would create a great environment for undetected dumbing down.
    My complaint is not the NAEP.I object to an endirsement of the A+ plan, which has been studied by professors and even a school district and found to be skewed by socioeconomic status by the use of an absolute score. Certainly you are aware of the wide body of research that demonstartes a correlation between socioeconomic stautus and achievement measures.
    As for gaming the system, I direct you to Derek Neal’s “Proficiency Counts: Left Behind by Design”. I am sure you are aware of that study as well.
    Why would you “take what Florida has” when Florida has dropouts by the zillions and unprepared college students? Certainly these are not traits to replicate.
    Please know that a lower graded cshool can have greater learning gains than an A school. If what happens in a classroom is truly what is to be measured, why are we not looking at change in MDSS, which is a far purer measure? Why aren’t we using a value added methodology? We copied Texas’s bad idea in the first place. We are seeing the same bad dropout problem that they saw. Guess what Texas is doing?
    Changing to value added!!!!!
    Upon my pointing out some educational concerns of Florida to you, you agreed that there are challenges. Had you forgotten that when you wanted what Florida has???
    What do you like about an accountability system that is unfair and fails to measure the intended entity if the entity would be instructional effectiveness? We have enough problems. Please don’t market us a defective product.

  5. matthewladner says:

    Ms. Hanfmann-

    I’m afraid you are making the perfect the enemy of the good. What we can say definitively is that Florida put in a broad set of education reforms in 1999, and fourth grade reading scores improved substantially. If you want to argue that some of the reforms were imperfect, or could be improved upon, you won’t get any argument from me. Value-added? I’m all for it.

    The point remains however that only 53% of Florida 4th graders scored basic or better on 4th grade reading in 1998, and in 2007, the number was 70%. The percentage of Florida kids scoring at the advanced level doubled during that same period.

    You referenced socio-economic factors influencing test score performance. Indeed they tend to do so- although less so in Florida than in many other states. Florida’s free lunch eligible kids outscore the statewide average for all students in a number of states, including my home state of Arizona. Not just their free and reduced lunch kids, Florida’s FREE lunch eligible kids.

    Were the reforms perfect? No of course not. Vince Young threw some incomplete passes en route to defeating USC for the national championship too, but strangely enough most people don’t seem interested in discussing them.

  6. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Mr. Ladner,
    I am addressing the awful accountability which is in use in the state of Florida. I would make a strong guess that schools which usea value added system do not have the socioeconomic skewing that Florida has. Even with Florida’s inclusion of “learning gains” using cutoff scores, the bias is quite evident. The choice to overlook a value added system says it all to me.
    My opinions follow:
    1. The system is a political tool with the aim being to funnel money from public education to elsewhere.
    2. The system lends itself to corruption as it bases so much on a single indicator.
    I am sure you are aware of Donald Campbell’s law. When our 2006 third grade Reading scores were inflated, the BUROS Institute investigated and suggested it unwise to tie such importance to one indicator.
    3. The strong tie to government of these reforms allow the legislature to make changes that will help them look good via data. For example, they lowered the bar this year, making it easier for schools to make a good grade. A largely clueless public thinks amazing things happened when, in actuality, the bar was lowered.
    4. Why do we use a state produced test? Why is it impossible to see your child’s scored test? How do we know the tes tis not created to produce particular results?
    Certainly the state is in possession of the performance of test takers.

    It is interesting to me when I debate this with die hard A+ fans, they just accept unfairness in an accountability system. Shouldn’t those two words be exclusive of each other? Linn would say yes. So do I.
    What about a system that is better at differentiating between distribution of ses than
    instructional effectiveness? That also should strike a discordant tone.

    Yet you are correct..noone want to talk about it. Why? My guess is because the
    persons unwilling to discuss this are driven to create data to match the rules to funnel money out of public education. If they looked at a truer measure, change in MDSS,
    the problem would not lie in our low scorers but in our high performers, mirroring the
    pattern of “High Achievers in an Era of NCLB”. Interesting. The skewing by ses is drastically reduced by using this purer measure. Yet it remains outside the calculations in an accountability sytem. Were the reforms perfect? Not for masuring instructional effectiveness. Were the reforms perfect for creating a set of rules and data which could be used to funnel money away from public schools and misleading the public? Nearly.
    $th grade does not make me smile. Florida has a mandatory retention in grade 3 law. Paerhaps more were retained than usual , who knows. Hav eyou forgotten that when you so proudly flout Florida’s grade 4 results? How many other states retain in grade 3? Is the NAEP the reason why grade 3 was chosen in the first place? Certainly grade 4 popukation is filtered. Second, 4th Grade is exactly that. What if I was a great ballet dancer when I was nine?
    What the heck does that matter if my talent is no longer eveident when I need it to be a successful college dance student or I drop out because my state creates legislation that I must rather than offer varied diploma types? Why would I want my gifted children to be able to create favorable data for their school without having to learn much or anything throughout the school year? Why should dumbing down be a hidden element in an accountability sytem?
    What do you think of Mathew’s article,”Forget the achievement gap?”

    last, since I have your attention, how can you be comfortable with failing schools being determined by a measure so tied to SES status rather than a change in MDSS?
    Failing schools are not properly identified, thus vouchers offered on a faulty basis and children may be directed to schoold where learning gains are less but their data can better include a low score without much damage. The so called failing school loses a few poor scorers, which aids their data. This improved appearance may well be the result of moving scores.

    If you like value added, I ask you to join me in pushing Florida to that mode, not cheering on some terrible things that don’t have to be. The resistance to look at this by some people has been illuminating. Imagine the benefits to politicians, school personnel, chambers of commerce, and realtors to be able to boast of A schools as if that meant excellence. Some A schools may have the least change in MDSS. How do the children fit in to the winners’ list? Derek Neal would lead one to believe it would be the level 2 scorers who scored close to level 3 if I understand it correctly. It certainly would make sense. What about losing our level 5s and level 4s? What about our students of poverty who start out years behind? Even a year’s growth may leave them short of grade level proficiency.
    One can wonder whether this A+ system was devised by people iwthout a clue or was it by people clever enough to create situations favorable for moving money out of public schools by calling ity an accountability sytem. I tend to guess the latter.
    My apologies for typos. Please let me know if you will aid me in my efforts to move Florida to a value added system. There is a dearth of people who have a clue that the A+ plan is actually better titled the F- plan. They are too busy smiling that their child’s school is an A. I am not among them.

  7. matthewladner says:

    Ms. Hanfmann-

    The Donald Campbell problem you cite is a problem for all state tests like FCAT, but far less so for NAEP. Florida kids were reading at much higher levels in 2007 than in 1998. That’s a hugely important success.

    I am really having trouble getting my arms around what you have to say about the role of demographics in testing. Florida’s very poor children have been outscoring the statewide averages for ALL STUDENTS in multiple states on a highly credible test. Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first) but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that is a spectacular success. If your counter argument to that is that A+ is either unfair to adults working in the system or to kids, I can only ask that you reconsider your definition of fairness. Was the system circa 1998 that had 47 percent of 4th graders unable to read fair to kids?

    Regarding the retention of 3rd graders, high quality medical evidence has established the importance of learning to read in the early grades. Statewide, a relatively modest number of students are actually held back, and the research shows they benefit academically. Chances are that few of these students made their way into the NAEP sample, and those that did may have learned how to read. No conspiracy there. This looks like it may be a highly leveraged reform whereby relatively few are held back, but many get the message to get serious about literacy in the early grades.

    My argument was never that the Florida system is perfect, just highly effective at improving student learning. I do believe that an obvious next step would be to adopt value-added methodology, which I wrote about here:


  8. Diane Hanfmann says:

    I could disagree with you on many levels and I think I have. Would you like to read the writings that show the A+ plan is biased and skewed by SES? I am not ever speaking about the NAEP test when I bring out my points.
    The education of the bottom 25% should not be more important than the education of the remaining 75%. You take great pride in the progress of the low performers. Where is your concern for the issues presented in High Achievers in an Era of NCLB?

    As to retention issues, that can be debated. Most recently, the Miami Herald ram an article about the failure of retention to produce long term improvement and the increase in dropout rates when one is retained twice.

    The Florida system i snot perfect…it is awful. Would you be interested in me citing research which validates the disaster of the A+ plan ? Are you willing to look at data or will you be disregarding facts to continue to praise an awful system?

    I remain curious as to your reaction to Jay Mathew’s article, “Forget the achievement gap”. This will potentially differentiate us via most clear lines.

    I will read your article about value added methodology. I hope to see that in Florida’s future. NCLB info, such as percent proficient, may be interesting and needed, but not in an evaluative mode. The inclusion of that as an evaluative measure was either a major mistake or a political maneuver. As you know, my opinion was that it was the latter.
    I thought of attending Jeb’s summit as a dissenter but figured I would be paying money to lose my mind. I am glad it was so poorly attended. Interestingly, about the time of that summit, a poll was available on an education blog about Jeb and his reforms. I believe 87% found him unhelpful to education. Also at the time of the summit, we were experiencing high winds some 150 miles awat from Orlando. I wondered if the winds were generated by the hot air blown around by the fan club of disastrous reform.

  9. Diane Hanfmann says:

    I read your recommendation for value added methodology dated 4/25/08. So why support the A+ plan? It is NOT value added. It has a lousy inclusion of what they call learning gains
    as they utilize cutoff scores. A change of even 1 point can signify a level change. I am certain you are aware of the bubble kids ‘phenomena.
    I know you are a voucher proponent. Do you truly believe failing schools are those with low rates of proficiency or those with poor size in change of MDSS? Why not speak out against a faulty definition of failing schools? Why not expose the disasters of an unfair accountability sytem? Why wasn’t value added always the correct way to go in Florida when we have a data base of great breadth?
    You will be glad to know I have no problem with McKay vouchers as I know them.
    Why? The failure is determined appropriately by looking at iep data. I may change my mind if I learn more about them than I know right now.
    Do you believe charter and private schools should be held to the same accountability as public schools?
    Do you have equal interest in all children learning? Do you like NCLB? What makes you comfortable iwth the stagnation of our top scorers? HOw does that help our nation succeed?

  10. matthewladner says:

    If you will go to the NAEP website and look up the numbers you will see not only was there a large increase in the percentage of students scoring basic or above, but even larger increases in the percentage of children scoring proficient, and a larger still increase in the percentage scoring advanced. The percentage of kids scoring advanced, the highest level, doubled between 1998- from 4% to 8%. Not much evidence there of kids on the high end getting short-changed. Quite the contrary in fact.

  11. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Mr. Ladner,
    Unfortunately, you are posting with someone well versed in what happens to the gifted under the A+ plan. They are asked to do little or no growing and that will provide
    for good data for the school. Certainly you are aware that many kids from high SES homes are proficient on or before the day one of class. Should they be shelved all year until testing day, drop off their good score, and go back to their shelf? What exactly is wise about Florida requiring a gifted student who has been subject accelerated to take the FCAT of his/her age grade placement? Where would you find the instructional validity in that odd rule? Am I right to believe that learning gains of a
    grade accelerated gifted child do not count on a vertical scale? Why? Could it be that
    all attempts to create data supporting a closing achievement gap are more important than appropriate testing procedures. Do you find it acceptable to close an achievement gap by holding down the top?
    Florida averages 1 in 100 scoring at level 5 in Science at the highest grade level the test i soffered. This is worthy of replication???
    What makes you believe that scoring advanced on an age based standardized test is an accurate measure of a gifted child’s ability? I know too little about te NAEP to speak of their level determinations. Perhaps the gifted should be accessing a test typically given to older children. Do you believe that the gifted are making a year’s worth of growth when accelerative options are too rare? Are you aware of A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Best Students? It is on your computer if you google this compilation of fifty year’s worth of research. Try as well the book “Genius Denied:How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds”.
    Again, what is your reaction to Jay Mathews’ “Forget te Achievement Gap”? Do you find it more important that equal outcomes are derived from varied abiity levels or varied ability levels demonstrate equal benefit from the curriculum?
    In the end, the final product is what enters the job market or college, or all too often in Florida;s case, hits the road without diploma or marketable skill. I recently read 78% of Florida’s college student sneed remediation. I am sure I can find a range of percentages . A high school diploma does not signify college readiness in our state.
    What do you think of my idea of diversity of diploma types? I know very little about diploma procedures but certainly not everyone is college material and their time in school may be best involved in vocational prep,perhaps leading to certification. IMHO,
    some will never be proficient. Please let me know if you agree with me that NCLB is
    ridiculous, defies basic learning tenets of individual learning rates and points of origin
    as well as floating a statistically impossible goal of proficiency for all by 2014?
    If you propose value added assessment in April, why do you want what florida is having in June? Florida is having bologna via the ironically titled A+ plan.
    Changes have been made to the A+ system throughout its lifetime. When looking
    at data historically, you must refer to the changes if you want to honestly portray
    information. IMHO, I doubt that has been the main intent or they would have selected use of subtracting MDSS scores as an information provider as well as allowing the gifted to access tests of their ability and not age. PLEASE don’t have what Florida is having unless you are hungry for bologna and like the prospect of dumbing down and drop outs.
    How about trying a new and improved path and scream for value added assessment? I won’t ask you to detract from the A+ plan..I can do that well .Have you read, and I assume you have, NWEA’s Individual Growth and School Success? It is the blatant ignoring of
    important work that leads me to conclude both NCLB and the A+ plan have ulterior motives.
    Margaret Delacy used Oregon test results to show the gifted were not learning much about 10 years ago. She also compared the gains of the gifted to other student groups.
    This was in the courts for years and recently settled.

  12. Charles Morris says:

    I have two short papers I’d like to send you. While Florida has had some success in improving test scores, there are aspects of the current system that are problematic. I’d like you to see and respond to my reports.

    Many thanks,

    Charles Morris

  13. matthewladner says:

    Despite self-proclaimed virtuosity, I have yet to see an explanation for a more than 50% increase in the percentage of Florida 4th graders scoring proficient on 4th grade reading, and a 100% increase in those scoring at advanced on NAEP, a test suffering from little to no “Donald Campbell” problem.

    You also cite a study from about 10 years ago showing gifted kids weren’t learning much. That’s not terribly hard to believe- a decade ago Florida had rotten NAEP scores as well. Incidentally, ten years ago puts you in 1998, the year before the A+ reforms passed.

  14. matthewladner says:

    Mr. Morris-

    Please do send me the reports. My email address is mladner@goldwaterinstitute.org

  15. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Mr. Ladner,
    The testing I mentioned was in Oregon, another reason it had nothing to do with the A+ plan and was offered only as evidence that the gifted gains have been found problematic earlier. I also have seen an article showing the poor gains of the gifted reported earlier. Another state showing poor learning gains of the gifted is mentioned in Duke Gifted Letter’s “Riding the Wave”.
    Please show me exactly how the A+ plan is designed to assure that gifted students grow by a year. I have been investigating this aspect for quite some time.

    I see you were interested in another poster’s reports. Therefore I take the liberty to
    suggest you google the words Schinkel and Grading Schools by Poverty. A second study of interest can be found at http://www.palmbeach.k12.fl.us. Then go to School Board.
    Then choose among the options until you find the link for the 11/14 Biard workshop.
    Then please go to the link there which is titled Bias against Students of Poverty in School Grades and AYP. Click on those documents and watch what happens to the scatterplot when learning gains are considerd in relation to distribution of poverty as compared to scatterplots demonstrating proficiency levels and distribution of poverty.
    Stae and county data reported. Not surprisingly, 97% of Florida’s elementary schools serving 1-25% free and reduced lunch had As and none had less than a B. Similar results were found for other levels of schooling.
    I did address your thrill with the 4th grade score increase by stating that third grade retention filters grade four and I wondered if that is why third grade wsa chosen. I
    also addressed your point that advanced level doubled on the NAEP by stating I am not sufficiently familiar with how levels of advanced are detremined on the NAEP.
    I have not heard many of my questions answered.
    may I add that Florida’s OPPAGA released a Pre K report a few months ago which
    noted trouble with the PREK accountability sytem because centers with greater learning gains wer e being sanctioned while centers with less learning gains were being
    okayed. THIS HAPPENS IN ALL LEVELS of education via the faulty A+ plan.
    What are your thoughts on Jay Mathews’ “Forget the achievement gap”?
    If I sound self-virtuous to you, I do. I am tired of people ignoring blatant problems and marketing an unfair and invalid system. Should i apologize for believing the accountability sytem STINKS and can back it with data? I have no plan to apologize. I do hope to move the state to a fair system.
    I hear you saying no system will be perfect instead of these flaws could be drastically reduced and the public provided more accurate information if we ditched this pathetic excuse of an accountabiity sytem and went to value added. You at least suggested value added 4/25. Then you backtrack and second Florida’s offerings in June. These two desires are inconsistent as I see it.

  16. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Sorry. Schinkel should be Tschinkel. My fault.

  17. Diane Hanfmann says:

    I must call it quits for today. I am familiar with Dr. Morris’s fine work. I am glad someone
    is giving it the attention it deserves. When an accountability system fails to serve its purpose, it should not be in operation. The flaws do not have to be so gaping. Hope to check in tomorrow,

  18. matthewladner says:

    Ok, I really am trying here…

    Why would you expect to find anything else besides wealthier kids scoring better than low-income kids? You would be hard pressed to find a legit test that doesn’t find that. The fault, dear Hanfmann, lies not in our tests but in ourselves.

    Second, if an external and highly credible set of data show that kids of various income brackets are doing much better and learning how to read, why oh why should I be horribly concerned about the hurt feelings among some adults working in the system?

    Sure, I’d much rather base things on gains if done right. Yes, there are schools that are coasting on easy demographics, and other schools making strong gains but still getting bad rankings. This is the case in every state. Yes, I’d update the system. Such concerns are strictly secondary in nature, however, against the backdrop of strong improvement.

  19. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Did you look at the scatterplots of the PB county data? I don’t think you would be surprised to see that the skewing by SES is drastically reduced when learning gains are used rather than proficiency levels. SO..why not use the purer measure only rather than get polluted and unfair data???
    You again try to couch my concern in the test when that is not my concern. I again state my concern is the pathetic A+ plan and giving credit to an unnecessarily lousy system.
    While you keep saying every state has x flaws, I am less sure. A state such as Ohio uses value added. It is not polluted by proficiency level data.
    I am sensing two things: 1) At least you dialogue and 2) YOu seem to be joining the camp of so what if it’s not so right.
    On the positive, you do show hope in “Sure, I’d rather base things on gains if done right”. Doing things right is the key. While you see only the hurt feelings of some adults s the consequence of the flawed A+ plan, I see far more consequences. There is money distributed based on a faulty indicator. OUr neediset schools get poorer in comparison while our affluent schools get money for doing less. Is that good for the voting base because it is not fair? Do yu think employess ina corporation want random paychecks awarded?The school grades combine iwth AYP for sanctions at certain points. Inappropriate reputations are provided. The public is misled as to the effectiveness of the school. Credit can be taken for fantasy. The bubble kids phenomena exists.
    Such concerns aresecondary to people who don’t find them concerning. How do you know learning would not occur better under a value added system where evryone counts regardless of their starting point? Read Derek Neal’s work and see where the
    improvement lies, in level 2 to level 3. Why is mediocrity a great goal in a globally competitive job market and economy?
    Is the continuation of a terrible system worth it if it will lead to less money for public schools? Why wouldn’t an advocate for all children’s learning scream foul and insist on an immediate overhaul?
    I believe Linn said an accountability system must be reliable, valid, and fair. Florida’s fails to meet the test.
    Rather than having what Florida has, (dropouts by the zillions, unprepared college students as end results), why not use your words to cry foul when an accountability system STINKS?
    How does one create better data of the masses? Lower the bar. I know a school which got 100% pass rate on the Writing FCAT. I can’t recall if it was the whole school or only a grade. When 100% pass, that is minimal standards if everyone can do it. The plan is to exclude the grammar punctuation part of Writing from even being taken next year. I don’t know if it counted this year or not. Regardless, each time the bar is lowered, data will look better. Are you interested in dumbing down? The NRT will be eliminated next year. There goes a comparison point.
    I have not a single doubt that wealthier kids in general score better than poor kids in
    general. That is why I exclude profiiciency level data from an evaluative mode. Report it separately somewhere if you want. I also have trouble believeing the policy makers forgot this correlation. Instead, did they overlook it to pursue political motives? I am about learning gains, where the SES difference is diminished. You know value added so you understand.
    I believe it is insane to have one bar when we have a diversity of abilities in our learner population. Why create a dropout when you could create a diploma or vocational certificate?
    I give you credit for debating. I find Dr. Morris’ work is clear in illuminating the accountability sytem fails to provide accurate information about school quality.
    OOPS, I thought that was the goal. It matters that it does not. I am curious to hear your thoughts on the PB County info.

  20. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Eureka! I found you are not a fan of NCLB. We have agreement. I read where you showed concern for a race to the bottom. Agreement. I must read some more and regain some hope!

  21. matthewladner says:

    I actually am broadly sympathetic to the idea that you put forth that value-added is a much better, fairer method for evaluating school quality. There is no doubt about that at all. I have also been very critical of states dummying down their tests. Here is an example of that from my home state of Arizona, which has been one of the worst offenders in that regard:


    Where we seem to part ways is on whether these concerns make the Florida system is horrible or not. Living in a state where the statewide average for all students on 4th grade reading is less than that of Free lunch eligible kids in Florida (2007), I will go to sleep at night and pray for a set of reforms that have been as effective as Florida’s in raising student achievement. 56% of all Arizona students score basic or better on the 4th grade reading test for NAEP. The same percentage of Florida’s Free Lunch eligible kids scored basic or better. The income threshold for a Free lunch is $20,650 for a family of four. Median family income for a family of four in AZ is $63k.

    If your concern is the high end of the scale, Florida does much better there as well. If I lived in a state where the Hispanic and African American kids were outscoring the statewide averages for all students, I’d be very proud of it.

    Collectively, Florida reforms have been extremely impressive. Were they perfect- no. Can they be improved upon-absolutely yes. Should we be harshly critical because Florida has not been among the handful of early adopters of value-added techniques? I really don’t think so.

  22. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Your first paragraph in the above post is of great comfort. Your excitement over Florida’s test scores comes from your frame of reference, which is different from mine .
    I am so consumed in trying to fix Florida that I know little about many other states. I know a bit about Texas, Pa, Ohio, and Tennessee.
    I see your point about grade 4 minority scores but it matters less to me as the end product reflects no great improvement. If students graduated at grade 4, I would find it more important.
    The reason I find it disastrous that Florida did not go value added is that it screwed everything up. As you like vouchers for failing schools, under the current system, failing schools are close to certain that they will be serving a high percentage of low SES kids. That would less likely have been the case had a value added system been in place. The policymakers certainly should not have been unaware of the ses and achievement correlation. This terrible choice and refusal by many, but not you, to look at this issue gives me the impression of political motives.
    Florida reforms have not been impressive to me. Look at our first group to have survived A+ from grade 3-10. Where’s the hurrah? You have to investigate how the testing has been tweaked when you look at all this because it is not as it seems.
    The gifted are likely to be doing best in a value added state as their growth would be needed to produce decent data as opposed to cashing in on learning nothing or little.
    I am big on looking at the FCAT and the gifted. The A+F- plan and gifted gains are my issues. Ohio, a value added stae, actually has appropriate testing procedures in place
    which I would like to advance.
    Anyhow, I see you like the achievement of the Hispanics at gr 4. Fine. What makes you think that such could not have occurred without the F-A+ plan? Perhaps value added could have moved everyone because growth is important wherever it occurs.
    I am glad we got to a better space and I am really glad you think NCLB is better
    ignored. PHEW! A value added system of accountability that allows for a great diversity of learners/starting points and gauges growth from that point is exactly the right way to go for every state. I am working on Florida, one step at a time. Dr. Morris’s work was convincing, wasn’t it? PB County’s also highlights that which should not exist. I remain harshly critical since this lousy system has been in place for 9 years. The unfairness is not new and could have served as a reason for fussing and change. Yet it remained. I’ll let you know when Florida gets straightened out!
    I hope I live to see it .

  23. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Right when I thought this discussion had come to an end, I found something looking into the Fordham study on Eduwonkette comparing the top 5% of US 15 year olds to the top 5% of 57 countries in Math and Science. In Math, we ranked 28th, with several countries a half standard deviation above our best. In Science, we came in 10th or 11th. They then went on to look at our students within that group who go on to Ivy League schools and say they too are getting their butts kicked but I saw no stats. Test: PISA. I know I am off topic but I feel the need to present that all is not well for our best and brightest under policies which make their adequate growth and development unnecessary. The A+ plan is such a policy.

  24. matthewladner says:

    Yes but I haven’t claimed that Florida had become an international powerhouse or that all is well, just that Florida has made some remarkable progress.

    Take at the long-term NAEP trend data at the NCES website. The biggest problem in American schools has been the fact that academic achievement has been low and stubbornly flat for the last 30 despite a substantial increase in funding. In that context, a 32% decline in 4th grade illiteracy in 10 years is a triumph. All the better that the percentage scoring advanced doubled as well.

    Florida lawmakers will need to perfect and build upon those reforms to achieve the sort of international competitiveness that you are referring to. They can’t sit on their laurels by any stretch of the imagination- they need to go further and do more.

  25. Diane Hanfmann says:

    The A+ plan must be discarded for that to happen. At least now I see some agreements that we share and know where are differences are. I guess I could understand your happiness with fourth grade data if you also add that this does not translate into later year performance and thatthe subject base is filtered by removing poor performers. How can you even compare when the sample is selective in Florida?
    How man y other states retain at grade 3 by governmental rule? It sure is a good way to look good on grade 4 tests.
    I will join you in screaming for value added , denouncing NCLB, and I still like Mc Kay vouchers with my limited awareness of the deal. I think we have clearly found our
    agreements and disagreements. I doubt either of us will be changing their mind, but it has been a lively discussion and I am glad for your responses. I think I am finished unless I see something else. Thanks for the debate and remember , you can always
    change your mind.

  26. matthewladner says:

    NAEP samples are stratified random samples. You claim that there isn’t evidence that older kids haven’t benefited, but that isn’t the case, and it is a lagging indicator. Ending social promotion for illiterates isn’t cheating on NAEP, it is something that all states should consider doing if they are serious about teaching children how to read.

    I don’t like NCLB, but I do like testing and transparency. If it were up to me, states would give every child a solid SAT-9 type tests, value added results would be made public and readily accessible on the internet, extensive individual diagnostic reports provided to parents, widespread school choice, and that would be it.

    In the end though, I’m just a guy at a think-tank. My ability and desire to second guess a team of people that brought about a 32% reduction in fourth grade illiteracy is very limited.

    Good debate and I’ll see you around.

  27. Diane Hanfmann says:

    I like your second paragraph ALOT. Let’s have that, not Florida’s mess. I’ll have what your middle paragraph is having!

    Keeping in character, I must speak to the placement of mandatory retention at grade 3, which directly effects the grade 4 population. I have not found anything good about the results of grade 10 students on the FCAT as they are to be the first class to have been subjected to the F-A+ plan since grade 3. Perhaps you mean the grade 8 NAEP kids, I don’t know. I know is the bar has been lowered this year and there are alot of A schools and too many people are naively joyous, believing that A grade means something it does not. I know grammar, spelling, and punctuation will not even be taken next year, only a composition portion which yields quite high passing rates where as the soon to be extinct language mechanics did not. With no NRT and end of year exams, it will be difficult to get comparisons. Last year, we heard all about the increased number of AP and SAT takers. Such relatively useless info was everywhere and I suppose I was supposed to celebrate. Instead, I was left wondering exactly what i s the glorious ramification of number of test takers as a result. What about the results??? Now increased numbers in AP can boost school grades so I imagine my cat, dogs, and hamsters may be seated next to my son in an AP class. YIKES!
    I have a budget saving idea you might like. If all we will be hearing is how many people took a test, why not just count the people who show up for testing day and then send them home? Look, we could save money on tests, supervisors, scoring, training,
    and less energy used as the time would be short. We could trade those savings in for the return of the NRT. If you don’t like my budget saver, I also wondered why we can’t have disaggregated data for our SAT or ACT scores like we can our FCAT.

    It has been fun and thought provoking. I am glad you kept the discussion going.

  28. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Updated reason to not have what Florida is having taken from Palm Beach Post, 8/13/08 regarding ACT scores and Hispanics. The discrepancy between whites and Hispanics has increased from 2.2 in 04 to 2.8 in 08. Only 2 states performed worse than Florida. They would be Mississippi and Michigan. DC also scored worse. Folllowing a national trend, more test takers were cited in Florida.

  29. matthewladner says:

    The ACT test is a self-selected group. If you go to their website, you can find that they specifically tell people not to compare states based upon their scores.

  30. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Palm Beach Post: 6/14/08
    In 01, 37% of Florida’s tenth graders read on grade level. In ’08, 38% read on grade level. The cheer comes when???? Wasn’t the 08 class of tenth graders the first to have full effect of the F-A+ plan? My memory is that is the case.

    Statewide, Florida’s ACT scores declined .6 in 5 years.

    I did find some disaggregated data on the ACT. I will post it if I can find it again.

  31. Diane Hanfmann says:

    My mistake. The article was about the achievement gap as it exists in the 10th grade FCAT results, not the ACT.
    I can understand the pitfalls in comparing ACT scores, which are made all the time, but are you trying to present an idea that Florida would actually be worth having, to use your words? I would market
    top scorers’ strategies. Are you leaving open a possibility that you think Florida could actually be in the top 5 rather than 48? At least we got results and not just the pathetic statement fo more test takers.
    I think I noted earlier 78% of our college students needing remediation and included the possibility of finding a lower percentage. However, our diploma seems to not equate with college readiness.
    How did you like my money saver? I find it clever.
    Please ask for your earlier list of traits in your8/12 7:57 post and not Jeb style.
    Florida has testing, but using a state test which is not able to be seen by a parent once scored. We already had one documented episode of scoring error which was addressed a year later and an error eithin the test was noted. The BUROS Institute
    investigated and suggested high stakes not be tied to a single indicator. That situation remains in elementary and middle schools nonetheless. I would place our access to data as our strength.
    I think we have excellent and superb access to data but I think I might be one of the few who understands how to mine that for gold. We do not use a value added approach. In my district, you access your child’s results via internet and must request a hard copy from the school. We have some school choice.
    Florida’s 4th grade Hispanic scores are from a filtered sample. Hispanic children who could not meet criteria for passing third grade are not in the sample. If you would like to pass this around as a boast, wouldn’t it be honest and accurate to include the state
    has a filtered fourth grade population and why?
    We really have come to major agreements with what we want. Let’s scream for them!

  32. Diane Hanfmann says:

    I went to the ACT website and looked at the for journalist section and research policy briefs. Either I missed theri blurb about comparisons or I looke din the wrong place.
    Can you direct me? I did see a chart of each of the states with their data listed.

  33. Diane Hanfmann says:

    I read Dr. Morris’s work and I see you have received it as well. It put before your eyes
    data showing the A+ plan fails to provide accurate information about instructional effectiveness. What is your response? The typical response of others has been to have no response, thus keeping this awful system in place. I await your response.

  34. Diane Hanfmann says:

    Palm Beach Post offers more reasons to immediately take back your order of what Florida is having. Florida SAT Reading- tied for 38, Math tied for 47, writing tied for 44.
    Note the disparity between Writing proficiency on our state test, where it is very high, and the paltry 44 on the SAT. Please also note that the legislators have lowered the bar in Writing on our standardized test by excluding a multiple choice section of capitalization, punctuation, and grammar. Some may see this as politically lowering standards to benfit the adults by creation of better data. Please immediately scream for change in Florida.

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