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December 12th, 2012
08:35 AM ET

Florida 4th graders rank #2 in worldwide reading test; FL Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says it was 'a concerted effort for a number of years'

Some very bright news comes from the Sunshine State this morning. Florida fourth graders rank among the best in the world in reading, according to the results of an international study released this week. The test, which was taken by students in 49 countries, has Florida's fourth grade students coming in second place, just two points behind Hong Kong, and 13 points above the U.S. national average for 2011. This is the first year Florida has participated in the study, which also measured math and science scores for fourth and eighth graders. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart talks to Zoraida Sambolin about the surprising test scores on “Early Start” this morning.

Stewart responds to the accolade. "It's amazing. I think it's been a concerted effort for a number of years," she says. "Florida is focused on reading and cosidered every single teacher a reading teacher. We're very proud of the work that our students and teachers have done through this time."

Stewart explains the method behind the students' success and what a "reading teacher" means exactly. "All of our teachers, Kindergarten through 12th grade, no matter the subject they teach, incorporate reading skills and reading strategies within their course." She goes into the specifics, which include timed reading periods for students, at least 90 minutes per day, and extensive reading training sessions for teachers.

Florida's fourth and eighth graders scored closer to the U.S. average in math and science scores, meanwhile. Stewart says Florida's education system has already begun work to improve in those areas. "And we continue to do so, particularly as we move into the common core standards. There will be much more of an emphasis there. And we will see more improvement than we've already seen in Florida."

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