Florida vs. Missouri in K-12: Which state is better?

Two states with Republican governors – Florida and Missouri.

Missouri’s Governor Eric Greitens said in his State of the State address in January that “we have an education system that ranks near last in every measure that matters.”

[Editor’s note:  A fact check on one of the claims made by Greitens performed by Missouri Politifact reporter Grace Hase got me interested in Missouri]

In contrast, Florida’s leaders, including Governor Rick Scott, insist that Florida’s K-12 system is a model for the nation.  They have devoted an entire web site, “Florida Students Achieve”, to making sure that message gets out there.

What do the objective, verifiable data say about this?  In which state are K-12 students achieving more?

Below I show eight comparisons of K-12 student achievement in Florida and Missouri taken from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the ACT college entrance exam for the high school graduating class of 2016.  The ACT rankings shown are limited to those states in which more than 80% of the graduating class took the ACT.  Missouri is one of several states in which all 2016 high school graduates took the ACT.  In Florida, 81% of the 2016 graduates did so.

The bottom line?  Florida’s 4th graders are a bit ahead of Missouri’s.  But by 8th grade, Missouri’s students have blown by Florida’s – although in math both states are inexcusably weak.  Missouri’s students are ahead of Florida’s on three of the four ACT sections.  Florida’s lead only in reading.  After all, Florida is the “Just Read!” state.

The lesson here is not to take political rhetoric on education too terribly seriously without checking the data.  It’s a lesson that my regular readers (both of them) already knew, long before I started blogging eight years (and 100K page views) ago.

And I’ll take this opportunity to plug the proposal to replace all of Florida’s statewide standardized high school tests with the ACT one more time.  The primary objection to doing so – that the ACT framework doesn’t exactly match the state’s standards – is just so much smoke.  The ACT framework is what the nation expects from Florida’s students.  We should stop screwing around and just adopt the ACT as our high school test for federal accountability purposes.









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  1. Pingback: High school physics and other important subjects in Missouri and Florida: An open letter to Mike McShane | Bridge to Tomorrow

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