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Goodbye, “FloriDuh.” Hello “FloriDoes.” Florida Graduates are Winning at Life

• Lowell Matthews

Floridians can laugh at themselves. We all chuckle at the #FloridaMan tweets, weird wildlife adventures and “FloriDuh” stories. But let’s take a look at something “FloriDoes” right.  

FloriDoes Prepare Students for Life After High School

According to data provided by the Florida Department of Education, nearly 75 percent of all Florida high school graduates in 2016-17 pursued an accelerated mechanism like Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge’s Advanced International Certificate of Examination (AICE), dual enrollment or an in-demand industry certification.  

Of those 122,000 high school graduates who took an accelerate mechanism – 100,000 of them passed! Ready for an even more impressive number? Those 100,000 students who passed represent 59% of all high school graduates in 2016-17.   

In an era where the high school diploma simply doesn’t cut it, Florida is sending the majority of its students into the world with more skills and knowledge to be successful in the workforce, college or wherever their path takes them.  

Increased Funding for Schools, More Pay for Teachers and Savings for Florida Families 

These results are good news for Florida’s schools and teachers, too. Each time a student passes an AP, IB or AICE exam the school receives an extra $672 per student. When a student earns an in-demand industry certification, the school receives $420 or $840 per student, depending on whether the industry certification simultaneously confers college credit on top of the certification. Teachers who provided the instruction get paid bonuses for each student who passes too. 

These performance incentives add up to real money to schools in Florida—over $200 million in 2016-17 alone. On top of that, the college credit potentially earned just from the AP and industry certification incentive saves parents and students an estimated $139 million in tuition and fees.  

Positive Impact for Students Goes Beyond the Credential 

The benefits don’t stop there. When looking specifically at students who earn an industry certification, they are better engaged in school compared to students who do not pursue a certification. In fact, they: 

  • Have Higher GPAs (3.08 vs. 2.72); 
  • Have higher graduation rates (96.6% vs. 73.3%); and 
  • Are more likely to take an additional accelerated mechanism like AP or dual enrollment (50.0% vs. 32.9%). 

We’ve known for a long time how each of Florida’s incentive programs, whether they are AP or industry certifications, has been driving student performance. For the first time, we can see that the performance-funded incentives are changing the culture in Florida’s schools. And #FloridaMan can take that to the bank.   


Sources: Florida Department of Education and College Board 2017 AP Cohort. 

About the author

Lowell Matthews

Lowell is the Director of College and Career Pathways for ExcelinEd. He previously served as Staff Director for the Florida Legislature’s Senate Committees on Education Pre-K-12 and Higher Education, where he helped create Florida’s industry certification incentive to create a nexus between education and the workforce. Lowell is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University Law School. He also served in the U.S. Army. He lives in Rochester, MN with his wife and two kids.