redefinED roundup: Olympians and virtual schools, DC and CA charters shortchanged and more news

MondayRoundUp_magentaAlabama: The Institute for Justice, a national civil rights law firm, says vouchers are constitutional in the state (

Alaska: School choice opponents voice their concerns at a public hearing over a constitutional amendment to allow public funding of private schools (Anchorage Daily News, Nonprofit Quarterly). The proposed constitutional change passes the House Education Committee but the amendment faces a tough road ahead (Anchorage Daily News). There are 27 charter schools in the state with no cap on how many schools may operate (Alaska Dispatch).

Arizona: The state has many school choice programs (Camp Verde Bugle). A state court rules the Department of Education cannot recoup $5.9 million in over-payments to charter schools due to a change in teacher performance pay because it didn’t notify the schools of the rule change (Arizona Republic). Charter school operators plan to open 25 new charter schools in Phoenix (Arizona Republic).

California: Parent trigger elicits emotions from parents on both sides (Hechinger Report). The superintendent of LA Unified says every “student has the right to a choice of a highly effective school” (Reason Magazine). San Diego school board members are attempting to exclude some charter schools from receiving bond money approved by city voters (Fox 5 San Diego).

D.C.: A new study reveals area charter schools are being shortchanged on student funding compared with district schools (Washington Post).

Florida: School choice is growing by leaps and bounds (Sunshine State News). The Palm Beach Post editorial board says giving students public school choice could reduce the disadvantages faced by low-income students. After 17 years as president and CEO of Florida Virtual School, Julie Young announces her retirement (redefinEDOrlando Business Journal). Gov. Rick Scott proposes allowing charter schools access to construction funds if they serve students within attendance zones of low-performing public schools (Tallahassee Democrat).

Georgia: A lawmaker wishes to expand the tax credit scholarship program with a $100 million cap (GPB News).

Illinois: Nobel charter schools name thee schools after donors who give $1 million or more, but the donors do not decide curriculum or which teachers to hire (Chicago Sun Times).

Indiana: The Lafayette Journal & Courier editorial board argues that private schools should continue to take the state test in order to create a fair comparison with public schools. Since vouchers can be worth no more than 90 percent of per-pupil state funding to local school districts, vouchers save the state money (Indianapolis Daily Star). Five voucher schools in the state say they teach intelligent design or creationism (Journal-Gazette). The Star Press editorial board worries that allowing students to use vouchers without ever attending public school creates two classes of education. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charters, gender-specific, Charlie Crist & more

Charter schools: The Franklin Academy charter school is opening a second campus next fall in Palm Beach Gardens. Palm Beach Post. The Leon County School district could soon be running a charter school on one of its existing campuses. Tallahassee Democrat. Lee County school officials are seeking $99,793 from Richard Milburn Academy of Florida Inc., which ran three charter high schools until closing for financial reasons. Fort Myers News-Press. florida-roundup-logoWoodmont Charter School, an F-rated elementary and middle school run by Charter Schools USA, is advertising on television for more students – but not mentioning its state grade. Tampa Bay Times. A Pasco charter school approval may hit some snags. Tampa Bay Times.

Gender specific: Hoping to score public funding to create single-gender schools, Duval County’s superintendent gives Rep. Erik Fresen, chairman of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, a tour of a local middle school with classes that separate boys and girls. Florida Times-Union.

Private schools: Tampa’s Berkeley Prep plans to build a 75,000-square-foot arts and sciences center that will feature classrooms equipped with the latest technology, college-level laboratories and performance studios, as well as an art gallery, study areas, a recital hall and meeting spaces. The Tampa Tribune.

District schools: Pinellas County public schools are closer to securing a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant that Superintendent Michael Grego says would “totally transform the school district.” The Tampa Tribune. A Pinellas County “turnaround” school takes its best shot at academic success. Tampa Bay Times.

Charlie Crist: An opinion on charter-school funding by then-Republican Attorney General Charlie Crist is at odds with a portion of the Democratic base whose help he now needs to become the next governor. Florida Times-Union. 

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President Obama is wrong about school vouchers in D.C.

ObamaIn a recent television interview with Bill O’Reily, President Obama discussed the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program and stated the private school vouchers “didn’t actually make that much of a difference” and have not “significantly improved the performance of kids in these poorest communities.”

President Obama seems to be relying on the final report of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program which stated, “there is no conclusive evidence that the OSP affected student achievement.” But it seems Obama’s (and some of the media’s) familiarity with the report ends here.

It’s true the final report did not find statistically significant reading gains, but earlier reports over the first three years did. The report also found large gains in graduation rates. And importantly, even the lead author of the final report, Patrick Wolf, supports expanding the D.C. voucher program. A deeper understanding of the report explains why.

First, the study examines the impact of being offered a voucher (after applying, qualifying and winning in the lottery process) – not the impact of using a voucher. This was done to set a really high bar for determining whether the vouchers made a difference. To achieve statistically significant achievement results, all the kids who won a voucher and used it to attend private schools had to score high enough to lift the scores of all the kids who won a voucher but stayed in public schools.

Next, random assignment studies (as great as they are) suffer from a major methodological flaw called “the real world.” Students were randomly assigned to a control group (no voucher offered) and a treatment group (a voucher was offered). Students in the control didn’t have vouchers, but that didn’t stop them from enrolling in private schools or charter schools. Students who were offered vouchers weren’t required to use them and if they did, they didn’t have to stay in the private schools.

By the final year report, 47 percent of students in the control group (who were not offered a voucher) ended up in private schools or charter schools at some point during the study. Regarding the treatment group, 78 percent of the students offered a voucher used a voucher, but only 27 percent used it to attend a private school during every year of the study. That means 51 percent of students offered a voucher used it inconsistently — returning to public, charter and private schools as they pleased.

In other words, one could summarize the study as examining the impact of some students using school choice vs. slightly fewer students using school choice. The DC study is not, as President Obama believes, proof that vouchers do not work. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Vouchers, private schools, choice & more

Florida Virtual School. Longtime leader Julie Young is retiring. redefinED, Orlando Business Journal. Jeb Bush says she has “earned the rare title of visionary.” Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Vouchers: House Speaker Will Weatherford wants to make Florida’s biggest source of tax dollars — the sales tax — available for private school vouchers next year. Palm Beach Post.

florida-roundup-logoPrivate schools: StateImpact Florida looks at why a Florida private school helps its staff stay high-tech.

Charter schools. The Lee County School District is attempting to recoup about $100,000 from a charter school network that shut down more than a year ago. Fort Myers News Press.

Catholic schools: About 30 students at St. Lawrence, a K-8 Catholic school near North Miami Beach, chant “No place for hate,” as they gear up for a schoolwide anti-bullying campaign. Miami Herald.

School choice: Giving students ‘full choice’ could reduce low-income families’ disadvantages, writes the Palm Beach Post.

School grades. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wants a simpler formula. Florida Current. More from the Tallahassee Democrat.

Science: Despite a huge public investment aimed at creating a high-tech economy, Florida continues to lag the nation in many measures of scientific prowess, says the National Science Foundation. Palm Beach Post. Continue Reading →


Julie Young, longtime Florida Virtual School leader, is stepping down



Julie Young, the longtime leader of Florida Virtual School, the nation’s largest public provider of online learning, has announced she is retiring.

Young, who served as Florida Virtual School’s president and chief executive officer for 17 years, called the experience “one of the greatest joys that I could have ever imagined.”

“I believe that FLVS has made incredible strides toward transforming education worldwide, one student at a time, showing the world that if you put the student at the center of your decisions, provide them with a teacher who meets them where they are, and works tirelessly to take them where they need to be, educational miracles do happen,’’ Young said in a prepared statement released Thursday.

“After 30 years in public education … it seemed the right time to begin a new adventure,’’ FLVS spokeswoman Tania Clow told redefinED. “It also seemed the right time for FLVS: there is a stable and quality leadership team in place, student outcomes are very positive, and an infrastructure for continued innovation and growth has been established.’’

Clow added Young has been presented with several opportunities, and will be pursuing those in the near future. “Of course, she will miss the FLVS family, but she is excited about what is ahead for her and the organization,’’ Clow said.

Young launched Florida Virtual School in 1997 as an Internet high school with 77 initial enrollments. Today, Florida Virtual School is an award-winning Florida public school district with five schools serving more than 410,000 enrollments. Continue Reading →


Balancing freedom & justice to shape school choice accountability

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Fordham Institute’s Choice Words blog. It’s one of many pieces written in response to Fordham’s release of a “school choice toolkit” for lawmakers that called for more regulatory accountability measures for “voucher schools.”



Policy-making usually involves trade-offs, finding the right balance between competing objectives and even principles. This is especially true in education, where so much is at stake, both for vulnerable children and for the health of society.

One of the principles that should guide educational policy is that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” (article 26, 3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in San Francisco in 1948). Officially, at least, this right is acknowledged by almost every nation, and in many of their constitutions; it has been settled law in the United States since the Supreme Court’s 1925 ruling in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (268 U.S. 510).

Americans agree, as Terry Moe showed in Schools, Vouchers, and the American Public (Brookings Institution, 2000). This is especially true of parents for whom public school provision is of inadequate quality. “Among public [school] parents, vouchers are supported by 73 percent of those with family incomes below $20,000 a year, compared to 57 percent of those with incomes above $60,000.   . . . 75 percent of black parents and 71 percent of Hispanic parents, compared to 63 percent of white parents. . . . 72 percent of parents in the bottom tier of districts favor vouchers, while 59 percent of those in the top tier do” (212).

Moe also found, however, that “enthusiasm for regulation is remarkably uniform and cuts across groups and classes – including private [school] parents, who appear quite willing to see the autonomy of their own schools compromised in the interests of public accountability” (299). This expectation of government oversight is also well-established in international law and practice, and specified in the Pierce decision.

On the other hand, if the regulatory hand of government is too heavy, the right of choice becomes meaningless: what’s to choose among schools forced to be alike? Continue Reading →


Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Educators supporting options, SPLC’s bizzare defense, Winston-Salem says no

MrGibbonsReportCardThe Association of American Educators

The Association of American Educators (AAE) is a non-union professional service organization for teachers. The AAE does not promote strikes or boycotts, does not engage in collective bargaining and does not engage in political activity unrelated to education. It does provide member benefits such as liability insurance, grants and resources such as job listings, lesson plans and other teaching materials.

AAE doesn’t have an official opinion on school vouchers, but it does survey members to see how they feel about education reform issues. Its most recent survey, released this week, reveals 59 percent of members support a Milwaukee-style voucher program for low-income students while 72 percent support Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) model. Regarding public school choice, 82 percent support open enrollment programs.

The survey only listed questions regarding school choice programs of limited scope and size, so it is possible members would be less supportive of more expansive voucher and scholarship programs. That said, the support among professional service organization teachers is roughly similar to that of the general public and several times more favorable than teachers in general.

Does the AAE attract teachers who are more likely to be open to school choice in the first place? Or does the AAE’s culture of professionalism encourage more open minds regarding school choice? These are matters worth exploring in the future.

Grade: Satisfactory

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Florida schools roundup: Charters, private schools, state testing & more

Charter schools: At Oasis High School, one of Cape Coral’s city-run charters, students from the Model United Nations team are heading to MIT for their next conference. Fort Myers News-Press. 

florida-roundup-logo Tampa Prep’s robotics teams qualify for a state tournament. The Tampa Tribune.  Chinese exchange students make friends at Carrollwood Day School in Tampa. The Tampa Tribune.

State testing: A state senator, a civil rights attorney and the mother of a young student say the Florida Department of Education is sending a bad message to public school children and their teachers by having lower achievement goals in reading and math for minority students. The Florida Current.

AP Capstone: Hundreds of Pinellas and Hillsborough county students could soon be among the first to earn a new academic distinction with no enrollment caps through the AP Capstone program. The Tampa Tribune.

School legislation: A state House panel approves a draft bill that bars school districts from suspending students for “brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food item” bitten into the shape of a weapon or “possessing a toy firearm or weapon made of plastic snap-together building blocks.” Tallahassee Democrat. The House K-12 Subcommittee approves a measure that requires middle schools to identify students who get suspended, fail English or math courses or miss more than 10 percent of their classes. Tallahassee Democrat. Sen. Alan Hays files a bill to remove the Department of Education from the selection of textbooks and instructional materials. Tampa Bay Times.

School funding: Tax collections for Miami-Dade County Public Schools could fall $60 million short for the second consecutive year. Miami Herald.

Continue Reading →