Florida Council of 100 releases study showing “rigor gap” in Florida classrooms

redefinED staff

A detailed study released today by the Florida Council of 100 in cooperation with the Florida Department of Education includes data indicating the state can do more to align efforts on student growth by helping students and families in real time.

Coming on the heels of last year’s dismal National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, the study shows a substantial “rigor gap” between the grades Florida high school students receive and their mastery of content required to pass end-of-course exams in Algebra I and Grade 10 English Language Arts.

Among the findings:

·       Seventy-two percent of English 2 students and 55% of Algebra I students who did not pass the corresponding end-of-course exam received a course grade of C or higher.

·       Thirty-seven percent of 10th-grade English students and 12% of Algebra I students who did not pass the corresponding end-of-course exam received a course grade of B or higher.

While the study, which relied on three years of data from the Florida Department of Education, does not include student data from the COVID–19 pandemic, the researchers hypothesize that the pandemic has increased the identified rigor gap due in part to more lenient grading practices and issues related to delivering high-quality distance learning.  

“Our analysis concludes that if teachers, leaders, and administrators hold students accountable throughout the school year for the standards they’ll be evaluated on at the end of the year, their grades and test scores will be closely aligned,” said Chris Corr, Council of 100 chairperson. “The rigor gap we see instead indicates the contrary, the result being that students are less prepared for success at the postsecondary level or in the workplace.”

Corr noted that while the responsibility for closing the rigor gap falls upon the system as a whole, he referenced a 2010 study that indicated students tend to study 50% less when they expect teachers to award relatively higher grades, leaving them surprised by less favorable end-of-course exam scores.

Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran warned in comments included in a Council of 100 news release about the study that “we can love someone into mediocrity,” and observed that challenges brought about by the pandemic have made it more important than ever to deliver a quality education driven by high expectations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated gaps in student achievement, so it is imperative that all students, especially low-income students, students with special needs, English Language Learners, and other struggling students are given the supports and honest learning feedback to achieve their individualized educational dreams,” Corcoran wrote.

Among the tactics for implementing those supports, Corcoran said, are the “record investments” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made in teacher compensation, aligning education to curriculum tied to Florida’s new B.E.S.T. standards, and ensuring that parents have increasingly robust learning options from which to choose.

For more details, a question-and-answer document on the study can be accessed here. 

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