Fla. 4th graders global leaders in reading scores

Published On: Dec 11 2012 02:32:30 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 11 2012 03:16:27 PM EST
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Florida's on top of the world when it comes to reading.

The state's fourth-grade reading scores last year were slightly behind Hong Kong's, but an international study released Tuesday concluded their results were not measurably different.

"No education system scored higher than Florida," it states.

Florida's 2011 fourth- and eighth-graders also scored above the global average in math and science and on par with the rest of the United States.

The National Center for Education Statistics released both studies. They show U.S. students as a whole performed better than the global average in all three subjects but still lagged behind many other Asian and European countries.

"For families to benefit from the expanding global economy, Florida students must compete and succeed with students internationally," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. "This report is great news for Florida."

Interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said the results show Florida is on the right path as it moves toward implementing new Common Core State Standards over the next couple years along with 44 other states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who made schools a top priority and continues to push for educational changes statewide and nationally, also hailed the reading results in a statement issued through his Foundation for Florida's Future, which advocates for his policies.

"Sunshine State students are once again busting all the myths and proving that all kids can and will learn when education is organized around their achievement," Bush said.

As governor from 1999 until 2007, Bush pushed for school accountability criteria. That included grading schools based on student test scores, with high performers getting rewarded and those at the bottom receiving sanctions as well as extra help. Bush also supported private school vouchers, teacher merit pay and stronger academic standards with an emphasis on reading. However, he opposed class size limits that many educators also credit for improving schools.

Florida's overall fourth-grade reading score was 569, just two points behind Hong Kong, a former British colony that's now part of China. Finland, Russia and Singapore also were rated similarly.

Forty-seven school systems outside the United States scored lower than Florida including Canada, Germany, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Chinese Taipei, Great Britain and France.

In math, Florida's fourth-graders last year ranked ninth among 57 school systems, behind Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Northern Ireland, North Carolina and Belgium. Florida's 545 score was well above international average of 500 and topped the overall U.S. score by four points.

Florida's eighth-grade math score was 513, also topping the U.S. average by four points and the international average by 13 points. The state ranked 16th out of 56 participating school systems.

In science, Florida's fourth-graders also had a score of 545. That beat the overall U.S. score by 10 points and the International average by 45 points. Florida ranked seventh behind South Korea, Singapore, Finland, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Russia.

Florida's eighth-graders finished 17th with a score of 530, topping the U.S. average by five points and the international marker by 30.