Florida's ranking in Education Week's 2012 Quality Counts report tumbled to 11th place nationally, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time in four years.
Rated fifth in the country last year, Florida was surpassed by Ohio and other states which have adopted Sunshine State-style school reforms launched by Gov. Jeb Bush in the 1990s.
Education Week handed Florida an overall grade of "C+" --down from a "B-" last year.
Maryland, for the fourth straight year, repeated as the top education state, with a "B."
Massachusetts, New York and Virginia followed Maryland, with "B" grades. The national average was a "C."
Florida scored some of its highest marks in "teaching profession" and "accountability." According to the report released Thursday, the Sunshine State:
- Earned an A in the Standards, Assessments and Accountability category, ranking fifth in the nation.
- Was one of 10 states to have the capability to link teachers and their student performance data back to teacher education programs.
- Ranked first on the equity measure that looks at differences between average per-pupil spending among districts at the 95th and fifth percentiles.
- Placed second in the equal distribution of funds among its school districts.
- Rated fourth with a B in the "teaching profession" category.
- Earned points for increasing its graduation index by 14 percentage points from 2000 to 2008.
- Finished fourth in the percentage of students who received a "3" or higher on Advanced Placement tests and third highest for the percentage increase in successful AP testers.
Florida is a leader when it comes to education reform. Thats evident in our A grade in the accountability area," said state Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson.
"We are a model for other states when it comes to using high-quality metrics to help guide instruction and inform policy."
Still, the downgrading by Education Week appears to fly in the face of Florida's school-grading program, which continues to issue an ever-increasing percentage of "A's" and "B's" to campuses.
Gov. Rick Scott said, Floridas education system ranks among the best in the nation," but acknowledged, "We still face some challenges. Im confident we will continue to improve."
Robinson added, We know that our educational system has been strained by the economic downturn.
Pointing to Scott's pledge to increase K-12 spending by $1 billion, the commissioner predicted, "It will be a factor in our success as we move forward.
Fund Education Now, a Central Florida advocacy group, told the Orlando Sentinel that the state's decline could be attributed to budget cuts and what it called failed education policies that "diverted" money to "lower standard 'choice' schools."
The group also alleged that the state "refused to pay teachers on par with other professions."
The data used to derive the financial ranking dates back to 2009 and reflects the impact of the economic downturn on spending for education from that year.
See a state-by-state report card here.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.