Florida once again secured a top spot when it comes to educational achievement.

A report released last month by Education Week showed Florida outperforming the nation in 15 out of 18 K-12 achievement measurements, putting it at No. 3 in the nation for K-12 academic achievement behind New Jersey and Massachusetts.

This is Florida's highest ranking by these assessments, and the second year in a row it reached No. 3.

Education Week creates its yearly report from a combination of data from the U.S. Department of Education, College Board and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

One of the measures included improvement of the high school graduation rates, which Florida ranked 2nd for.

The Villages High School has maintained a 100% graduation rate for the last three years, something that is a goal every year, said VHS Principal Rob Grant.

"We never give up on a student and always push them to do their best," Grant said. "Our students know from the first day on the VHS campus that it is our expectation that they leave here with a high school diploma. Our goal is that students leave here ready for post secondary education or are work ready."

Florida also ranked 8th for Advanced Placement testing scores in 11th and 12th grade and 6th for improving AP test scores. The state reached top ten for improving reading and mathematics in the 4th grade level, improving 8th grade reading and more.

Randy McDaniel, Director of Education for Villages Charter School, said the standards and curriculum set by the state have been a key to the success.

"Over the last couple decades, the state of Florida has made several K-12 education improvements." McDaniel said.

McDaniel said such improvements come in many forms, but specifically the state has put a, "heavy focus on English Language Arts-that's priority No. 1."

"You really have to make sure they are fluent and efficient in reading and language arts to be successful," McDaniel said. "...As long as we are focused on being straightforward and looking at the data we will be on the road to improvement."

The state continues its journey on educational improvement by preparing to roll out the Florida B.E.S.T. (Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking) Standards, a more targeted system that provides periodic benchmarks students must hit by the end of their grade level.

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran is hopeful the new standards and proposed progress monitoring tests will lead to an even brighter future of improved state scores and rankings.

"We are setting our students and teachers up for success to increase students' growth and achievement in the years to come," Corcoran in a news release.

Teri Mattson, Vice Principal of the Villages Charter Elementary School's 4th & 5th Grade Center, attended state trainings on the new standards.

"As a team, we're going to be digging into the new curriculum," Mattson said.

The elementary schools uses different programs and assessments to ensure students are ready for state exams, including diagnostic online programs like IReady.

The rollout of the new Florid B.E.S.T. Standards is due for next school year, and Mattson said staff will intensify training as that gets closer.

Staff Writer Garrett Shiflet can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5367, or garrett.shiflet@thevillagesmedia.com.