Florida Connections Academy 2009 State Test Scores Exceed Overall State Results; Best Overall Performing Virtual Middle School

Virtual school demonstrates strong academic results; receives high praise from parents

ORLANDO, June 3, 2009Florida Connections Academy (FCA), the full-time, K-8 virtual school serving students across Florida, continues to demonstrate strong academic results according to the recently released results of the 2009 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCAT). Florida Connections Academy exceeded overall state proficiency ratings in all subjects—reading, math, and science. The results also exceeded those of the state’s other full-time K-8 virtual school provider in many areas, most notably in the ratings of combined middle school grades in each of the subject areas.

Highlights and relevant distinctions about FCA and FCA’s FCAT results:

  • Students surpassed state reading proficiency ratings in every grade—beating overall state scores by 30 percentage points in 8th grade and by 16 percentage points overall.
  • In math, middle school students exceeded state ratings by as much as 26 points.
  • FCA’s proficiency ratings for combined grades 6-8 exceeded those of the state’s other full-time K-8 virtual school in reading, math, and science.
  • FCA is able to serve highly gifted and talented students. In 2008-09, 11% of FCA students in grades 2-8 were enrolled in FCA’s gifted and talented courses.
  • Lower scores for some of the 85 3rd and 5th grade FCA students who took the FCAT do not reflect FCA’s historical record of strong performance. FCA is taking corrective action to address this issue.
  • The school also served students under direct contracts to several school districts. A number of these students scored at level 5 in either reading or math, including a student who achieved a perfect score in 3rd grade math.
  • FCA serves a highly diverse population, with 35% of all FCA students identifying themselves as minorities.

FCA’s FCAT results are particularly impressive given the population the school serves. The share of low-income students in FCA’s 2008–09 elementary student population is 69% higher than that reported by the state’s other full-time K-8 virtual school in 2007–08 (comparable 2008–09 figures have not yet been made available). For middle school students, FCA’s low-income population is 39% higher.

“The FCAT scores are an important measure of success and we are very pleased with our students’ performance,” said Thomas Herdtner, principal of Florida Connections Academy. “The scores also show us where we need to try harder – accountability is key at FCA. Florida Connections Academy has consistently achieved excellent scores while serving a diverse and underserved population. In 2008–09 nearly 45% of all FCA students were from low-income families. Typically these students come to our program less prepared for success on standardized tests and have still performed well or improved over time.”

Also, legislative changes imposed on the school last year caused FCA’s 3rd and 5th grade enrollment to decline dramatically between 2007–08 and 2008–09. Scott Killough, Connections Academy’s Director of Analysis noted that, “with a smaller group of students now in these grades taking the FCATs, just a few students underperforming has a much greater impact on the results for the entire grade.”

In addition, Florida Connections Academy received an “A” grade from the Florida Department of Education in the most recent DOE report (2007–08 school year).

The Florida Department of Education’s FCAT results come on the heels of an independent survey of FCA parents. Over 96 percent of parents with students enrolled in Florida Connections Academy gave the school a grade of “A” or “B”. In addition, almost 97% of parents rated the curriculum as high quality and over 97% of parents recommend Florida Connections Academy to parents with students who are not enrolled in the school. See below for survey methodology*.

“At Florida Connections Academy we emphasize and value student growth both academically and emotionally,” Herdtner continued. “We are proud of our high-quality curriculum and our academic successes, but we are equally proud of our school community and our students’ personal successes. FCAT scores coupled with parent and student satisfaction make for a winning combination.”

The 2008–2009 school year marks the final year for the FCA program, which was operated under the Florida Department of Education. The Florida legislature now mandates that all school districts offer students a virtual school option.

About Connections Academy
Connections Academy is a leading national provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual public schools in fourteen states operated in partnership with charter schools, school districts, and state departments of education. Connections Academy schools deliver top quality, personalized education for students that combines certified teachers, a proven curriculum, technology tools, and community experiences to create a supportive and successful environment for children who want an individualized approach to education. In Connections Academy's Personalized Performance Learning® approach, students use daily lesson plans and curriculum materials provided by Connections Academy. Teachers develop a learning plan for each student, utilizing a proprietary, web-based Learning Management System to deliver, track, and administer the learning. In 2008-09 Connections Academy serves students in Arizona, California (Southern and Central), Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri (through the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program), Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. Connections Academy offers grades K through 12, though some schools do not offer all grades. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com.

*Survey Methodology Connections Academy conducts its annual Parent Satisfaction Survey to find out how its parents grade the program in several key areas. The 2008–09 survey was conducted in February by L.J. Shapiro & Associates, an independent market research company, which created the questionnaire, collected the data, and tabulated the results. No individual responses were accessible to Connections Academy. Parents of all currently enrolled students were invited to complete the survey. An email invitation was sent to each parent, and one response per household was submitted. Responses were received from nearly 72 percent of all Florida households in the Florida Connections Academy program.