Common Core could spur school choice, survey suggests

surveyccA new survey from Education Next suggests conservatives interested in expanding school choice may be shooting themselves in the foot by opposing Common Core.

The reason? According to the survey results, Americans become more favorable to school choice (and other education reforms) when they are better informed about the relative achievement of students at local schools.

Released Tuesday, the survey by researchers Michael B. Henderson, William G. Howell and Paul E. Peterson divides respondents into two groups – the informed and the uninformed. It then asks questions related to how the public feels about local schools, teachers, teacher unions, standardized testing and school choice. Informed responders were made aware, by the authors, of how well local students performed relative to their peers statewide or nationally.

Consistent with other surveys, the public held fairly high opinions of their local schools but low opinions of all other schools. Opinions of local school performance fell when the public was made aware of local student achievement. Informed Americans did not change their already favorable opinion on testing and standards in general, but did have an increased preference for high-stakes testing tied to third-grade promotion and high school graduation.

In regards to school choice, Americans actually become less supportive of “targeted vouchers” (vouchers for low-income students) and more supportive of “universal vouchers” (voucher for all) when informed of relative student achievement. Residents living in below-average school districts were significantly more supportive of universal vouchers.

surveyresults

With more information about how local students perform relative to their peers, Americans do appear to become more supportive of school choice and other policies supported by the education reform community. It is entirely possible that Common Core could make Americans more informed about student achievement. As the authors’ note, “there is a certain irony in the fact that CCSS’s opponents favor many of the reforms that seem primed for winning greater public approval should the standards be fully implemented.”

However, not all opponents of Common Core are in the ed reform camp. I don’t expect the teacher unions and their supporters to jump with excitement at this survey’s findings. Read the full survey here.

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Florida schools roundup: Common Core, school choice, audits & more

Common Core: State education officials release 98 proposed changes to the controversial national education standards. The Buzz. More from the Tallahassee Democrat, Orlando Sentinel, StateImpact Florida. And the insanity over Common Core continues, writes Beth Kassab for the Orlando Sentinel. State education officials “sorta rubber-stamped the whole shebang,” writes John Romano for the Tampa Bay Times. Florida activists are not satisfied with proposed Common Core changes. StateImpact Florida.

florida-roundup-logoSchool choice: Pinellas County scores in the top 20 nationwide for school districts with the best choices for parents. Tampa Bay Times.

H.S. diplomas: Thousands of students across Florida are being told to take end-of-course exams in subjects they’ve already completed if they want “scholar” on their high-school diploma. Orlando Sentinel.

School audits: A panel of state lawmakers blasts the Manatee County school district for what they call a “radioactive” audit of the school system’s finances. Miami Herald. More from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Rankings: StudentsFirst ranks Florida No. 2 in the nation for instituting new school policies to improve student achievement. Sunshine State News.

Parent trigger: StudentsFirst will not push legislators to adopt the school takeover plan in 2014. Tampa Bay Times.

Class size: Marion school administrators defend their decision to intentionally violate the state class-size amendment. Ocala Star-Banner.

Raises: The Palm Beach County School Board prepares to vote on raises for principals, assistant principals and other non-unionized employees. Palm Beach Post.

Principals: In an effort to improve the academic performance at some of Jacksonville’s most fragile schools, Duval County’s superintendent swaps principals at 11 schools. Jacksonville Times-Union. 

Continue Reading →

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Another school choice option blooms in Florida: Cambridge

Move over AP and IB. Another rigorous college prep program is catching on in high schools across Florida and adding to the state’s pace-setting expansion of school choice.

cambridge 3The nonprofit Cambridge International Exams, now in more than 100 Florida schools, is tied to the prestigious University of Cambridge in England. That makes it attractive to parents and students looking for a competitive edge in college admissions offices. It also sounds good to education leaders wanting to promote their schools in an environment where more than 40 percent of Florida students now attend a school other than their zoned school.

Cambridge students are exposed to an international curriculum and can earn up to 45 college credits with an “AICE diploma,’’ an Advanced International Certificate of Education that is recognized by all Florida public college and universities, and some private schools.

Cambridge is promoted as somewhat less costly and time-intensive for schools to implement than International Baccalaureate, the larger, better-known program with a similar design. With its focus on critical thinking, in-depth problem-solving and strong writing skills, supporters say Cambridge also dovetails nicely with the state’s newly-adopted education standards.

“We are attempting to spread the word,’’ said Sherry Reach, Cambridge’s international manager for the Americas, who is based in Panama City. “The course and assessment program we are offering helps develop skills important in the language arts for Common Core.’’

Bay County was the first Florida district to try Cambridge in 1994. In 2000, after the state Department of Education studied it, the Legislature deemed it effective for use statewide the following year. Since then, more than 100 Florida schools have signed on with Cambridge, which offers programs for students ages 5 and up. Of those, 78 are high schools, said spokeswoman Jamie Mongiovi. Nationally, the program is in 240 elementary and secondary schools in 27 states, up from 80 schools in 2009.

“A lot of that growth has happened the last few years,’’ Reach said. Continue Reading →

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redefinED roundup: ESAs to grow in AZ, DOJ in LA and Cantor vs. de Blasio

MondayRoundUp

Alabama: The state’s new tax-credit scholarship program has nearly reached the $25 million cap (AL.com). A councilman of Birmingham says the Alabama Accountability Act must be repealed (AL.com).

Alaska: The state should abolish the Blaine Amendment and allow private school vouchers (Daily News Miner).

Arizona: Education reformers plan to rapidly expand the Education Savings Accounts program if the state Supreme Court approves (Arizona Daily Sun). The Arizona Daily Sun editorial board takes a stand against expanding Education Savings Accounts, instead arguing that the state should spend more money on traditional public schools. A Republican state senator owns businesses that have financial dealings with his own tax-credit scholarship organization (CBS 5).

California: Gloria Romero, a Democrat and former state senator, argues school choice is a parent’s right (OC Register). Some public schools that convert to charters are seen as charter schools in name only (Seattle Times, Joanne Jacobs). Market competition leads to collaboration in L.A public school choice (EdSource). The California Charter Schools Association calls for the closure of a low-performing charter school managed by UC Davis, Sacramento City College and the Washington Unified School District (Sacramento Bee). Will the state embrace charter schools (San Diego Tribune)? San Diego earns low scores on the Brookings Institution’s school choice index (Press Telegram).

D.C.: Thousands of parents attend a school choice convention to find the right school for their child (Washington Post). Democracy Prep, a charter school from New York City, will be taking over an Imagine charter school in the district (Washington Post).

Delaware: A judge blocks the closure of an all girls charter school on 14th Amendment grounds (Education Week).

Florida: Four school districts in the state rank in the top 25 for school choice according to a new Brookings Institution report (redefinED). Virtual charter schools grow (redefinED). The Duval County School District holds an expo to advertise public school choice options to parents (Action News Jacksonville). Legislators propose two competing charter school bills, one creating a standardized contract to make it easier to form charter schools and the other to require surety bonds before a charter school can open (Sun-Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times). Another proposed bill would allow charter schools to share space with district schools (Miami Herald).

Georgia: New rules require charter schools to score as well as or better than the state and district averages on the state’s 110 point grading scale, or risk having their charters revoked (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Illinois: An op-ed writer says Chicago has too much school choice (Chicago Business). Six Catholic elementary schools are slated to close by next year (Chicago Tribune).

Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal asks the court to reconsider the decision to allow federal monitoring of the voucher program to ensure racial balance (Times-Picayune). The U.S. Department of Justice is asking the court for the power to veto any voucher award (Cato Institute, National Review, Catholic Online). A state panel suggests a new way to fund the Course Choice program (Shreveport Times). New Orleans tops the Brookings Institution’s school choice index (Watchdog). School choice empowers parents (Business Report). New Orleans shows how urban districts can create real achievement growth through school choice (US News and World Report). Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Charters, magnets, Common Core & more

Charter schools: The Legislature considers proposals that would make it easier for the nontraditional public schools to open and provide more oversight. Sun Sentinel. Renaissance Charter Inc., one of the largest charter school operators in the country, is growing in North Florida despite a mixed record of achievement. Florida Times-Union. Lawmakers look at changes to the charter school process, including state review of applications. The Tampa Tribune.

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools: Turning three Polk County schools into magnet schools next fall leaves some students traveling farther to a new school. The Ledger.

Same-sex schools: WLRN in Miami looks at the latest legislative proposal to create more single-gender classrooms in Florida.

Teachers: In a year when Florida’s public school teachers are getting substantial raises, substitutes will see no bump in their paychecks. Orlando Sentinel.

School safety: St. Lucie County School District students will see new deputies in their schools, thanks to a national grant allowing the school resource officer program to expand. TC Palm. School mental health workers grapple with the best way to offer students such services in a patchwork, underfunded system. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Common Core: Republican Party of Florida activists vote  to oppose the Common Core education standards in a sign of growing anger over the national school benchmarks. News Service of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott says the state will unveil its revisions to the standards next week. News Service of Florida. More from The Florida Current.

Continue Reading →

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FL Gov. Rick Scott tries to ease conservative fears about Common Core

From the News Service of Florida:

Gov. Scott

Gov. Scott

ORLANDO – Looking to calm a rising furor in the grass roots of his party, Gov. Rick Scott said Saturday that a state set of revisions to nationwide education standards will be unveiled next week.

One day after a caucus of the Republican Party of Florida’s state committeemen and committeewomen backed a resolution opposing the Common Core standards, Scott also said he would support legislation specifying that curriculum is a local responsibility and limiting what information can be gathered about students.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said earlier this week that her department would propose about 40 changes to the voluminous education benchmarks. Scott’s remarks Saturday, to the annual meeting of the state GOP, signaled that he hopes the changes will soothe conservative fears about the standards.

“Here’s what we’re going to ensure: These are Florida standards,” he said. “They’re not some national standards; they’re going to be Florida standards. This is our state. We’re not going to have the federal government telling us how to do our education system.”

The overwhelming majority of the changes Stewart is set to propose would add material to the state’s version of the standards, officials say.

Common Core started out as a joint project by officials in about four dozen states, but some conservatives have grown worried that the standards will instead lead to unprecedented federal intrusion in local schools. The opposition to the guidelines has opened a rift on the right between those arguing against the benchmarks and members of the school accountability movement, like former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who backs the standards.

On Saturday, Scott spoke about legislative proposals only in vague terms. He did not stop to answer questions despite shouted requests from reporters who jogged toward him as he left the Rosen Centre Hotel. Continue Reading →

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FL GOP activists slam Common Core

From the News Service of Florida:

ORLANDO - A gathering of Republican Party of Florida activists voted Friday evening to oppose the Common Core education standards in a sign of growing anger among the party’s grass-roots members over the school benchmarks.

The resolution, which was approved by a caucus of state committeemen and committeewomen as part of the run-up to Saturday’s annual party meeting, is not binding on the GOP.

RPOF officials, speaking on background, quickly moved to downplay the significance of the vote against the guidelines, which have support from members of the school-accountability movement led by former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

But the vote also seemed to show that resistance to the standards has not died down since Gov. Rick Scott ordered the state Department of Education to begin backing away from a test based on Common Core and to review the standards. Continue Reading →

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Thanks to school choice scholarship, he’s a 21st Century learner

Jordan Garcia

Jordan Garcia

Cristina Valdes noticed her fourth-grade son’s interest in learning start to fade and his behavior slip during the 2011-12 school year at their local elementary school and immediately took it as a red flag.

Instead of concentrating on his teacher’s lessons, Jordan Garcia asked to take unnecessary bathroom breaks, roamed the halls and fooled around seeking attention, his mother said.

“Jordan’s conduct at school had reached a crossroads and I saw him pulling further away from his interest in school and more towards acting up and being the class clown,” said Cristina. “I felt that if I did not intervene now, I may lose him by the time he started middle school.”

What perplexed Cristina the most was that her son’s grades were among the best in his class, but Jordan’s conduct and a general lackluster for his studies blemished that academic success. What she learned was that her son was often the first in class to finish tests and schoolwork and then he was left without anything structured to do. Jordan didn’t notice his slide, however, but admitted he was bored in school.

“I found my work very easy and since the teachers didn’t have anything else for me, I would make paper balls and try to make three-pointers into the garbage cans,” said Jordan, now a sixth-grader. “My classwork was not very challenging and the homework was easy.”

Cristina also pinpointed the issue and tried to address it.

“I would review his assignments and I saw a lot of repetition in his curriculum. He simply wasn’t being challenged academically. I met with his teachers on several occasions which validated what I already knew – my son was a smart kid, but was bored, which lead to a change of attitude and the beginnings of bad behavior,” said Cristina. “

At one point, she had her son tested for the gifted program, but he missed that option by just a few points, she said.

When Cristina was searching for options, a friend told her about the Step Up For Students school choice scholarship program, eventually leading her to Highpoint Academy near their Miami-area home. (Step Up co-hosts this blog.)

“I was thrilled after meeting with Highpoint Academy,” said Cristina. “They represented what I had envisioned for Jordan’s education including interactive teaching methods, small student-teacher ratios and a curriculum that I knew would challenge my son.” Continue Reading →

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