Following in Ohio’s Footsteps, Florida Sets Proficiency Targets Low

On January 6, the Florida Board of Education voted on new proficiency benchmarks in math and reading for the Florida Standards Assessment, the Associated Press reports. Under the new scores, more than 50 percent of 10th grade students will meet or exceed proficiency targets, significantly higher than the proficiency rate identified by the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, which is considered the “Nation’s Report Card.”

At least one board member, John Padget, cautioned against setting proficiency targets low. Students need a “cold shower,” Padget said, to ensure they get the help they need to graduate prepared for college and careers. Two board members acknowledged they had been persuaded against moving ahead with higher levels because of fears of “crushing [students’] spirit.”

By setting the bar low, Florida is following in the footsteps of Ohio, where last fall state officials expanded proficiency targets to include students who fell short of college- and career-readiness markers set by PARCC. “Ohio has set the proficiency bar too low and undermines the promise of ensuring kids are on track for college and career,” Karen Nussle wrote of the decision.

“Since Ohio first adopted Common Core State Standards, the state has been engaged in a very difficult transition to not only bring transparency and honesty to the process of reporting student achievement, but also to raising the bar in order to ensure kids were prepared for the next step after high school,” Nussle’s memo adds. “By expanding the definition of proficiency to include students that are less-than-proficient, it appears the state is regressing.”

Florida education officials should reconsider setting low cut scores for their students. In doing so, the state will reaffirm its commitment to high expectations that prepare all students for success at high levels of learning and ultimately in college and careers.