Misleading ads on Florida test results: Gov. Rick Scott should do the math maybe?

An Orlando Sentinel story set the record straight on how Florida kids do on well-regarded federal exams called NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress).

Scott, who is challenging incumbent Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate race, is featured in a recent ad that says:

“Fourth-grade reading and math scores, first in the nation. Eighth-grade reading, first. … I like it when Florida’s first.” the Sentinel reported.

In fact, the federal data itself “doesn’t show Florida scores are first in the nation,” the story said. And even the governor’s press release on the 2017 NAEP result hailed gains in test scores compared to prior years. But that’s not the same as Florida getting the top test scores in the nation.

It’s not the first time that Florida officials have bragged about test results that can be misleading.

The Phoenix wrote about results on the state’s Algebra 1 exam required for graduation, showing that the state has set the bar so low that kids can pass the exam and still have to take college remedial classes to catch up on fundamental algebraic principles.

Students also take reading and math exams at the state level. And those test results show that passing those tests is easier because the state allows kids to pass even if they’re not what’s considered proficient.

Those easy-to-pass results are then used to judge Florida public schools.

Because state testing results are a significant component of how Florida grades its schools — with A through F grades — questions remain about whether schools look better than they really are, state data show.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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