Education Week ranks Florida 6th in nation, local schools react

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SARASOTA, FL-- Education Week's annual school rankings are out, and Florida is back in the top 10. The state had dropped from fifth to 11th last year, the result of spending cuts and weak student performance. So what's changed?

What hasn't changed is the state's spending on education. Florida still received an "F" in that category. But despite that, the state improved enough in other areas to bump up that overall ranking, and our local school districts credit hard work.

School administrators say Florida has made smart choices over the last year, implementing new policies and practices in the classroom, scoring much higher in areas like teacher quality and assessments. “Helping our teachers and staff understand those expectations, and our students and families, that maybe slightly different than the fcat, although fcat performance is also indicative of how they would be performing at the college level,” Lori White, Sarasota Schools Superintendent.

Now ranked number six in the nation for quality education, there's proof that all the hard work is paying off. Brian Flynn is the principal here at Rowlett Elementary School in Bradenton. He says he's always thought Florida schools should be ranked higher. “Wonderful educators, parents who are involved in the schools making sure their children are doing well, that makes a difference in the success we're having here at my school, and in manatee county, and across the state.”

Jimmy Kolesar agrees. He has three children, the youngest is Darshan, and he says he feels Florida’s school system is one of the best. “The reason i came back to Sarasota, i lived here a decade ago, was because i wanted to be in the Sarasota middle school district, so arianna goes to school in the district and she loves the school. However, some parents disagree, saying they were shocked by Florida’s top ten stance. Samantha Burt’s son is only five months old, and she says he will not be attending public school in Florida. “I'll probably do private school in a different state, because i wasn't too pleased with it when i went through.” And even though that top ten ranking earns some bragging rights, White says the focus remains the same. “What matters most is the quality they feel they're getting for their child.”

One of the areas the state showed the most improvement in is college readiness. School administrators say that's because the state has aligned the assessments at the high school level, making it easier to determine which students may need extra help in certain areas.