Education

Florida schools slip in national ranking

Lawmakers have spent the last six years touting Florida’s spot in the annual ranking of state education systems.

That is likely to end in 2015.

Florida came in 28th in the latest round of rankings, released Thursday by the national magazine Education Week.

The Sunshine State had been in the top 11 since 2009. It was ranked sixth-best in 2013.

Education Week changed its formula for ranking state education systems last year, shifting its focus from public policy to student outcomes. No rankings were published in 2014.

Under the revised criteria, Florida posted above-average scores for student achievement. The state earned points for high Advanced Placement scores, as well as successful efforts to shrink the achievement gap between poor students and their more affluent peers.

But Florida continued to lag most other states in education funding, according to the magazine. Education Week calculated Florida’s spending to be $9,120 per student — $2,615 less than the national average of $11,735.

State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart’s office noted that the budget data used in the rankings is from 2012, and doesn’t reflect spending increases approved in Florida in 2013 and 2014.

She called overall news “evidence that the state’s focus on student achievement is working and Florida has a good return on its investment in education.”

But her words did little to quiet critics, who contend Florida spends too little on its public schools.

“You get what you pay for,” said former state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach. “So long as the governor and Legislature continue to underfund schools they will be left declaring success rather than achieving it.”

Florida Education Association Vice President Joanne McCall said she believed the new ranking was more accurate than rankings from previous years.

“Maybe this report will show the Legislature and the governor that they should have a dialogue with those of us who actually reach students on a daily basis to decide what works,” she said.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.

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