LEE COUNTY, Fla. - "Today, I received the completed reports from the two independent testing experts tasked with performing audits of this year's FCAT results. Although my staff and I are still studying the reports in detail, our review indicates that both independent experts agree that the results are accurate and the learning gains fluctuations that many of our districts have experienced are within historical ranges.

"These independent reviews were conducted primarily based on the feedback and concerns that were raised by our school districts, including a dialogue session last week that allowed district representatives to openly discuss the issue with the auditors. Given the transparent and collaborative process used to ensure district concerns were reviewed thoroughly, and the highly regarded national reputation of these independent testing experts, I can state with utmost confidence that the results are valid and our assessment system is sound. We must now focus our efforts on preparing our students for success in the coming year and beyond.

"With accuracy confirmed we must take a critical look at this year's results and identify the reasons why our progress has slowed in our elementary grades and why our lowest performing quartile of students experienced difficulty making learning gains. We must also look at the near decade worth of assessment data we have to determine if there are any enhancements needed to our accountability system that would help increase student achievement across all grades.

"Throughout this analysis I plan to work closely with our districts to ensure the continued progress of these students remains a top priority. I have also instructed my staff to proceed with final calculations for this year's school grades, providing additional information that can assist in this examination. My intent is to release those grades as soon as possible.

"Holding our schools accountable for the success of every single student is an essential part of our education system and these policies have helped to produce results that few states can match. One need only look as far as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the gold standard in measurement for our nation's schools, to find proof of this success. The reason we are outpacing the rest of the nation is because we choose to hold ourselves accountable for every one of our students and because we are actively invested in helping them achieve the quality educational experience they deserve.

"I truly respect our districts for raising their concerns this year and for demonstrating such an active role in trying to improve our education system. Their ongoing involvement and thoughtfulness is critical as we continue to refine our processes and provide better learning environments for our children."