Florida leads the nation in digital learning; state grades an ‘A’ in annual report card

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Florida has the highest score among the 50 states in the Digital Learning Report Card compiled by the Foundation for Excellence in Education. The report measures education policies on 10 components for what the Foundation identifies as a high-quality digital education. Florida beat out two-time high scorer Utah in the 2014 report.

The two states are the only ones to post scores higher than 90 percent and to receive an A grade. Five states, Connecticut, Tennessee, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota, scored below 60 for an F grade.

The Sunshine State fell below 90 percent in two of the eight categories used to evaluate a state’s digital learning experience. Florida lost points for is digital infrastructure, earning a C, and in choices offered, receiving a B.

Florida aced the rest of the categories, including enabling students to customize their education, providing quality content, having multiple providers, encouraging performance-based incentives and requiring accountability and assessment.

The report card is an outgrowth of a Digital Learning Council convened in 2010 by former Gov. Jeb Bush and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise. The meeting identified the 10 core elements used to compile the annual report card.

“Digital learning can open doors for students by improving their delivery, access, quality and rigor of education for today’s learners,” said Patricia Levesque, CEO of ExcelinEd, as the Foundation is now known.

Levesque’s group took the elements identified by the Council and applied 41 metrics to evaluate a state’s digital learning program. The effort is funded by, among other groups, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The annual report seeks to publicize digital learning laws passed by the states. It reviewed the 50 digital innovations passed in 2014 and the 422 digital-learning laws approved in the last four years.

The Florida section of the report highlights HB 7059 approved by the Legislature in 2012. The Acceleration Options in Public Education mandated districts provide higher-grade-level subjects digitally and that parents be informed of options available.

“Programs are only as successful as the awareness surrounding them,” state Sen. Kelli Stargel told the authors of the report. “The ways we are obtaining knowledge is changing and the education system has to change with it.”

Levesque in announcing this year’s results noted the choice before lawmakers is to either enact policy to remove barriers to innovative education approaches or they can stifle them with restrictions and protect the status quo.

“Many of today lawmakers and education leaders are stepping up and creating the opportunities and infrastructure for students to explore powerful new models of learning,” said Levesque.

2014 marks the third straight year Florida and Utah were the only states to score an A. In a year-to-year comparison, half of the states improved their score, 14 states moved up one letter grade and nine states moved out of the F category.