High Expectations: The Key to Florida’s Success

image of Pam Stewart

By Pam Stewart, Commissioner of Education, Florida Department of Education

Every two years, states throughout the nation anxiously await the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is widely recognized as a strong indicator of students’ preparedness for future success.

I am thrilled the 2017 NAEP results provide further evidence that the student-focused policies we have implemented are working.

Florida is the only state to have improved significantly in grade 4 mathematics, grade 8 reading and grade 8 mathematics between 2015 and 2017 on the Nation’s Report Card. All of Florida’s student subgroups – White, Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, students eligible for free/reduced lunch, students with disabilities, and English language learners – outperformed their national peers in grade 4 mathematics and grade 4 reading, and Florida’s 4th grade Hispanic students rank #1 among the 50 states in reading and mathematics.


There are a number of factors to which I attribute Florida’s success, and I appreciate CCSSO’s invitation to share them with you on the States Leading blog.

  • Rigorous Standards: Florida has rigorous standards that guide instruction in all K-12 courses and grade levels, with which the statewide standardized assessments are aligned. The Florida Standards were established with input from thousands of Florida stakeholders, and the assessments were then redesigned to require students to use more advanced skills. As we raised the bar, our students have continually excelled. It is important to note that the 4th grade students who participated in the most recent NAEP were only ever taught the more rigorous Florida Standards.
  • Strong Accountability: Florida has been a national leader in developing and refining school-based accountability for two decades. In 2014, Governor Scott called for a return to a more transparent school grades system that was fair and promoted improvement in student outcomes. This system highlights the areas in which districts are earning high marks, as well as where there is room for significant improvement. We use this information to offer additional support and services to struggling schools. As a result, 56 percent of Florida schools are rated A or B and only 8 percent are rated D or F.
  • School Improvement: Florida statute outlines the steps school districts must take when one or more schools earn a D or F, and these policies have gotten increasingly stringent in recent years. The State Board of Education has the authority to request additional reforms when schools do not improve to a C or better, and its members have made it abundantly clear that they will honor their responsibility to all Florida’s students.
  • Teacher Quality: Every student deserves to have high-quality educators, and we have taken steps to ensure that is the case in Florida. As we raised standards for students, teacher certification exams became more rigorous, ensuring newly certified teachers have the necessary skills and knowledge. Florida has also made available objective information regarding teachers’ impact on student learning and raised the bar on its teacher preparation programs’ accountability system.

We are immensely proud of the progress we have made, and we are committed to building on this success. I hope you follow along through our website, www.fldoe.org, and engage with us on social media:  @EducationFL and facebook.com/EducationFL.

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