FL again a national leader on AP exams

AP report 2014 cover 2Florida continues to be a leader in both performance and progress on college-caliber Advanced Placement exams.

The state ranked No. 5 in the nation last year in the percentage of high school graduates who passed at least one Advanced Placement exam, according to a College Board report released Tuesday.

With a rate of 27.3 percent, the Sunshine State was behind only Maryland (29.6 percent), Connecticut (28.8 percent), Virginia (28.3 percent) and Massachusetts (27.9 percent). The national average was 20.1 percent. Florida ranked No. 4 last year.

Florida has the highest rate of low-income students of any state in the Top 10, at 56 percent. It also has the biggest differential between its AP performance rank and its rank in percentage of students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch. In FRL rates, Maryland is No. 17; Connecticut, No. 5; Virginia, No. 7; Massachusetts, No. 4; and Florida, No. 43.

In terms of AP progress, Florida again ranked No. 2, with a 12 percentage point increase between 2003 and 2013. Connecticut was No. 1, with Maryland, Virginia and Massachusetts rounding out the Top 5.

The report shows 41,149 Florida graduates passed at least one AP exam in 2013, up from 39,306 in 2012 and 28,667 in 2008.

Among Florida’s low-income graduates, 12,774 passed at least one AP exam in 2013, up from 10,897 in 2012, a 17.2 percent increase. Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Dual enrollment, career ed, private schools & more

Dual enrollment: Students enrolled in the College Academy at Broward College take classes on the college’s campus with Broward College professors, but they also get the support of a high school, all for free. Sun Sentinel.

florida roundup logoCareer academies: Clay County plans to redesign high schools into wall-to-wall career academies. Florida Times-Union. Mulberry’s Automotive Academy in Polk County realigns to earn certifications. The Ledger.

Private schools: Private school principals say Duval public school officials are partly to blame for a Title I shortfall that’s affecting how private schools deliver services to needy students. Florida Times-Union. Scheck Hillel Community Day School students in North Miami Beach receive advice on how to accomplish their goals from best-selling author Adam Grant. Miami Herald.

District schools: Brevard Public Schools leaders seek comment on a preliminary list of budget cuts for the 2014-15 school year, and an additional list of cuts for 2015-16 if the half-cent sales tax fails at the ballot in November. Florida Today. The general counsel for the Hernando County School District defends the superintendent’s decision to transfer an assistant superintendent to a warehouse position. Tampa Bay Times.

School choice: Moving forward with plans to reopen two elementary schools as tech magnets, Pinellas district leaders schedule a second application period for parents seeking options outside their zoned schools. Tampa Bay Times.

State testing: Opt Out Orlando is a group dedicated to discussing options to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and other high-stakes exams. Orlando Sentinel. 

Common Core: StateImpact Florida looks at how the new education standards address poverty.

Education spending: Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal for a big boost in education funding amounts to about $6,949 per-student, but that’s still below the 2007-08 high of $7,126. The Tampa Tribune. Continue Reading →


A school where ‘realization of possibility’ is routine

Jorge Perez graduated in 2008 from Academy Prep Center of Tampa, a private middle school in Florida, as class valedictorian. He earned a full scholarship to the prestigious Phillips Exeter prep school in New Hampshire and, today, he's a sophomore at Columbia University in New York City. Photo provided by family.

Jorge Perez graduated from Academy Prep Center of Tampa, a private middle school in Florida, as class valedictorian. He earned a full scholarship to the prestigious Phillips Exeter prep school in New Hampshire and, today, is a sophomore at Columbia University in New York City.
Photo provided by family.

Jorge Perez remembers the first time he stepped behind the black iron gates surrounding Academy Prep Center of Tampa, Fla. The private school for students in grades 5-8 is wedged beside a Cuban bakery and the interstate in a faded neighborhood with sagging bungalows. Yet, something made it electric with opportunity.

“It was very different from other middle schools I had seen and the atmosphere was buzzing,’’ recalls Perez, then a rising sixth-grader. “It felt like a place where I could grow.’’

And grow he did. Perez graduated from Academy Prep, earned a full ride to the legendary Phillips Exeter Academy boarding school in New Hampshire, and now attends Columbia University in New York City.

The story is all the more remarkable because, for Academy Prep, it’s not all that surprising. Since 2003, when the school was founded, many of its students – all of them low-income and almost all of them black or Hispanic – have moved on to top public and private high schools, and then to highly regarded public and private colleges.

No one at the school expects anything less.


Academy Prep Center of Tampa

Academy Prep Center of Tampa

It’s just after 7 on a Tuesday morning. Cars whiz by Academy Prep’s renovated red brick building, a former grammar school where children of cigar workers once learned to speak English. Students in uniforms haul backpacks and hurry inside even though school doesn’t officially start for another 30 minutes.

It’s breakfast time and everyone here qualifies for a free one. All 112 students also receive a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, awarded to low-income families to help pay a portion of the school’s $16,000-plus annual tuition. (The scholarship program is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.) The rest of the money comes from private donors and foundations that have come together with one mission: to dramatically change the lives of low-income children through the power of education.

“It is incumbent upon us as a society to give everyone an opportunity,’’ said Principal Lincoln Tamayo, a Harvard graduate who grew up in Tampa and went to kindergarten a few blocks from the academy.

Academy Prep and its sister school in St. Petersburg, Fla. are modeled after the recently disbanded Nativity Miguel Network of Schools, acclaimed nonprofit schools that catered to economically disadvantaged children. Its tradition of excellence continues at Academy Prep, where the graduation rate stands at 94.4 percent, Tamayo said.

About 80 percent of the school’s graduates go on to private high schools, including Exeter and, closer to home, Tampa Prep. Many of the rest enroll in top, local public schools, including Blake Magnet School and Brooks DeBartolo Charter High School. About 82 percent then go on to college, the vast majority of them four-year schools, including top-tier institutions like the  University of Florida, Bard College in New York and, now, Columbia.

None of this is by happenstance.

Continue Reading →


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 (Al.com).

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. 

Continue Reading →


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 →