Florida Partnership Provides National Model for Latino Student Achievement
Florida Partnership Provides National Model for Latino Student AchievementMichael Preston, Associate Director, Communications
If the saying is true that states are the laboratories of democracy, then the Sunshine State has perfected an educational strategy that’s worth replicating for Latino students across the country.
That strategy - known as the Florida Partnership - took center stage at Prepárate 2016 during a conversation between College Board President and CEO David Coleman and two of the current stewards of the initiative, Patricia Levesque and Jesus Jara. Levesque, CEO of the Tallahassee (Fla.) based Foundation for Excellence in Education, and Jara, Deputy Superintendent for the Orange County Public Schools, were on hand to receive the College Board’s Modelo de la Comunidad award on behalf of the Partnership for its outstanding work improving educational outcomes for Florida’s Latino community.
“[This partnership] puts the best of the College Board’s resources together with the state of Florida’s best resources,” Coleman said.
A collaboration between the College Board and the Florida Department of Education, the Partnership is dedicated to improving the academic experience for all students – especially underrepresented students – across the state by connecting assessments (through the PSAT/NMSQT), access to rigorous coursework (through Advanced Placement), and professional development opportunities for educators.
Since its start in 1999 under former governor Jeb Bush, the Florida Partnership has significantly increased access to AP course work for Latino students while also increasing the number of Latino students earning a 3 or higher on AP Exams. In 2000, approximately 6,500 Latino students took AP exams; in 2015, nearly 49,000 Latino students took at least one matched AP exam. The Partnership made a difference not only in expanding the number of students who took an AP exam, but also in their scores. About 5,800 Latino students passed an AP exam in 2000 with a score of 3 or higher; last year, 42,000 Latino students passed at least one AP exam by the same measure. The result is that Florida has become the first state to erase the equity gap in AP for Latino students.
“Florida is the one place where we’ve seen - at this kind of scale - the closing of the gap between Latino and white students,” Coleman said. “That’s remarkable.”
In addition, the Partnership has helped Latino students and their families save more than $112 million in 2015 in college credits earned through AP exams.
Levesque, who worked on Governor Bush’s legislative staff when the Partnership was being formed, said that having a clear vision for what they wanted to accomplish was critical in getting it off the ground.
“We realized that we didn’t want to just keep students from falling through the cracks, but that we also wanted them to be prepared for college,” she said.
To that end, there was an early focus on understanding how PSAT/NMSQT data could help identify underrepresented students who had the potential to excel in AP courses. This information was combined with a sustained professional development effort to help teachers prepare to teach AP in their classrooms.
As the partnership started to produce results, Governor Bush sought state funding to support the program and found a willing partner in the Florida legislature.
“There was bipartisan support for the partnership because the results where there,” said Jara.
Other states are now attempting to replicate some of Florida’s successes. Colorado, led by Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, is working with the Republican legislature to support and pass a bill related to AP Computer Science.
While Levesque and Jara are both advocates of building legislative support to institutionalize programs like the Florida Partnership, they also stressed the importance of parents, educators, and other community actors in creating an atmosphere where students feel as though they can succeed.
“We need to make sure our parents are educated on what’s available and possible,” said Jara. “The kids know they can do it and we just need to help them get there.”