Latinos on average earn less than their white peers, and, predictably, scores were lower for schools with higher numbers of students who received free or reduced-cost lunches. Such students are more likely to have parents who are less educated and thus less able to help with schoolwork. Those holding low-paying jobs are also more likely to have less flexible work schedules, meaning children growing up in poverty are less able to participate in beneficial extracurricular activities because of both prohibitive costs and because their parents or guardians may not be able to devote time transporting them to and from such activities. Hispanic children are also less likely than their peers to attend preschool and some lack the skills that their Asian and white peers, who are more likely to attend preschool, already have upon entering Kindergarten, placing them at an immediate disadvantage.
The High Scorers
Hong Kong, Russia, Finland, Singapore and Northern Ireland all scored high in terms of reading. Asian countries dominated math and science, with Singapore, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong and Japan turning in the highest scores.
Florida is particularly notable. The state asked that students' reading scores be compared to other international systems, and no country scored noticeably higher on the fourth grade-level reading skills test. In the 1990s, Florida ranked near the bottom of a ranking of U.S. states.
And, while Hispanic students in the state performed lower than their white and Asian peers in the state, they performed higher than the U.S. average.
Former Florida governor and founder of the education advocacy group Foundation for Excellence in Education Jeb Bush released a statement praising the state.
"Sunshine state students are once again busting all the myths and proving that all kids can and will learn when education is organized around their achievement," he said.
As governor, Bush instituted a program that mandated more academic studying focused on reading in kindergarten and held back under-performing students.