Florida's standings in national rankings of students' scores on standardized math and science tests paint, at best, a mediocre picture. In 2013, the last time the U.S. Department of Education released such rankings, Florida sat at 30th, a troubling ranking for the third-largest state in the nation. It's also a ranking cited frequently by those who claim Florida's school system needs drastic reforms.
What these rankings don't take into account is that the student populations across all states are not standardized. Some states have more children living in poverty or who start school without proper English skills.
Ahead of the release of the Department of Education's latest rankings later this week, the Urban Institute, a D.C. think tank concerned with social and economic policy, decided to rerank the states while taking these factors into account
Turns out by the Urban Institute's math, Florida should be ranked fourth. Yes, from 30th to fourth. That's quite an adjustment.
Urban Institute senior fellow Matthew Chingos readjusted each state's ranking to take things such as gender, race, ethnicity, limited English proficiency, special education, family structure, and other economic factors into account.
The idea is that not all students start on the same playing field for academic success.
Chingos found that the test results of students in Florida "significantly exceeds the test scores of similar students in other states."
In other words, Florida is better at educating, for example, a child living in poverty with a single Mexican-immigrant mother than most other states. However, because Florida has a significant number of students living in disadvantaged situations, the state's overall rankings tend to be low.
Certain Florida politicians seem to be aware of this fact. Jeb Bush has used improvements in the rankings of Hispanic students under his education reforms as a talking point in his presidential campaign.