A shot of reality about high school performance

I just finished reading a second Department of Education press release in so many weeks touting how terrific Florida’s High Schools are performing. The press statements rely on graduation rate statistics (that only Florida is using), and a new “self-test” that is being given to high schools under recently enacted legislative guidelines. While I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, as a parent with three kids headed in the direction of Florida’s high schools, I think it’s counterproductive to mask deficiencies with illusory successes.

So, as they say in the sports world, let’s go to the telestrator. Attached are a few pages from the recently released 2010 – 2011 Congressional Quarterly Education State Rankings . CQ is a respected, nonpartisan publication that puts together empirical data collected from reliable organizations including government sources. The stats are not a self-test, or a “home-cooked”
slice of data that gives Florida the best look possible. Rather it is data that treats all states equally. Apples to apples, oranges to oranges. Here is the tale of the tape:

What we spend (our 2010 estimated per capita expenditure for public education): Florida ranks 46th (we each spend $1272 on education)

How well we graduate (our 2010 estimated public high school graduation rate): Florida ranks 45th (with a rate of 61%)

Our composite ACT score: Florida ranks 48th (with a 19.5 score)

Our average math SAT score: Florida ranks 45th (with a 498 score)

Our average writing SAT score: Florida ranks 41st (with a 480)

And if you were wondering whether we are overpaying our teachers, our average schoolteacher salary in 2010: Florida ranks 37th ($46,912)

So quit uncorking champagne. Florida schools are struggling and anyone who says otherwise is living in an alternative universe and, clearly, has no children in a public school.