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Report: Florida scholarship students make gains despite disadvantages

Florida’s tax credit scholarship program continues to enroll some of the most disadvantaged students from among the state’s lowest-performing public schools, according to the latest evaluation of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. After they receive scholarships and enroll in private schools, they keep academic pace with all students nationally, based on their standardized test results.

The report is the eighth annual evaluation of the test score progress, and the second conducted by researchers at the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University. Researchers examined the reading and math scores of 34,469 students in 1,285 private schools during the 2014-15 school year. Scholarship students in grades 3-10 have been required to take a state-approved nationally norm-referenced since 2006.

The tax credit scholarship program is administered primarily by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog and employs the author of this post. It is the largest private school choice program in the country. Of the 69,950 students who received scholarships during the 2014-15 school year, 67 percent were black or Hispanic , and 53 percent lived in a single-parent household. The average household income was $24,135, or only 5 percent above poverty.

FSU researchers measure academic growth for students by comparing their national percentile ranking for one year to the next. A difference of zero reflects that the student has experienced the same academic growth as all other test-takers. In a finding that aligns with previous evaluations, researchers determined “the typical [scholarship] student tends to maintain his or her relative position in comparison with others nationwide. It is important to note that these national comparisons pertain to all students nationally, and not just students from low-income families.”


Researchers found that, on average, low-income students who receive Florida school choice scholarships make comparable gains to their peers at all income levels nationally. Source: FTC annual program evaluation.

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Putting Florida’s private school choice participation in perspective

private school choice graph

Florida’s three private-school choice programs serve roughly 112,000 students this year. *2015-16 totals are rounded and preliminary. Numbers could change before the school year ends.

Florida may be home to the largest private-school choice program in the nation, but its level of participation ranks no. 3 in the country, according to new data from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

The no. 1 state (Arizona) should come as no surprise. The no. 2 state (Vermont) might, though it’s home to one of the oldest school choice traditions in the United States.

The Friedman Foundation added up the number of private-school choice students in each state. In Florida, that’s about 30,000 on McKay Scholarships, more than 78,000 on tax credit scholarships, and roughly 4,000 using Gardiner Scholarships during the 2015-16 school year. It then divided the total by the number of “taxpayer-supported” students, including the nearly 2.8 million attending public schools. Florida’s private school choice participation rate came to about 4.1 percent. (Tax credit scholarships are supported with private, tax-credited donations, while the other two programs receive direct state funding). Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Duval investigation, achievement and more

IMG_0001.JPGDuval schools investigated: Do black and Hispanic students in Duval County have equal access to a quality education? That’s what the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating, according to a letter the department sent to U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville. Florida Times-Union. The local NAACP office is offering alternatives to the school changes School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has proposed. Florida Times-Union.

Achievement by gender: A study of a million Florida children born between 1992 and 2002 who attended public schools shows that boys overwhelmingly fall behind girls in learning at an early age and never catch up, and the gap widens significantly when race and socioeconomic status are considered. Washington Post.

Testing costs: Hillsborough County’s school district spent about $2.2 million on testing expenses in 2014-2015, according to a recent report by the Council of the Great City Schools. That’s about one-tenth of 1 percent of the district’s $2.2 billion annual budget. Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook.

Stadium deal: David Beckham’s proposed deal with the Miami-Dade School Board to build a $200 million Major League Soccer stadium in Little Havana is on hold. Team officials say owners of some of the properties where the stadium would be built are asking too much for their land. Most of the land, next to Marlins Park baseball stadium, is owned by the city, which agreed to transfer ownership to the school board to shelter the team from property taxes. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Language requirements, choice, charters and more

IMG_0001.JPGAu revoir to French?: A bill filed by State Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Parkland, would alter the requirements for Bright Futures scholarships from two years of a foreign language to two years of computer coding. Tallahassee Democrat.

School choice bills: Several school choice bills have been filed for the next legislative session. One, by State Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Clearwater, would allow schools with openings to accept students from other counties. Gradebook.

Charter enrollment flattens: Wild growth in charter school enrollment in Duval County is tailing off. After years of double-digit percentage increases, growth is just 1.5 percent this year. Florida Times-Union.

School testing: Maryland is looking into the use of standardized testing and the company that provides most of it, NSC Pearson. It is a leading test company nationwide, though it has lost contracts with Florida and several other states. Maryland Reporter. The highest pass rates in Advanced Placement class exams by black Florida students are in French, art and psychology. Bridge to Tomorrow. Continue Reading →

Future House speaker: More education transparency ‘coming to Florida”


Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz speaks on the House floor.

America’s education system is plagued by the same opaqueness and inefficiency as its health care system, and it needs to create a “marketplace” controlled by parents, the incoming leader of Florida’s House told an education reform gathering this morning.

During his first year in the Florida legislature, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz, filed a bill aimed at increasing price transparency for health care providers. Similar changes, he said, are needed in education.

States should create systems allowing parents to easily browse different education providers, ranked by price and quality. He said state lawmakers are looking to create such a system.

“It’s coming to Florida,” he said.

If parents had the power to direct education spending, he said, they would demand better quality and greater efficiency. Districts would no longer spend $25 million for a school building that would house 700 students, he said.

“If the marketplace exists, and we give that power to parents, you will absolutely transform education,” he said during a panel discussion at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual conference in Denver. Continue Reading →

Florida Hispanic students more likely to choose charter schools

Hispanics have become the single largest racial/ethnic group in Florida's charter schools.

Hispanics have become the single largest racial/ethnic group in Florida’s charter schools.

Hispanic students are fueling much of the growth in Florida’s public-school enrollment, but a trend within that trend has not received as much attention. They are disproportionately enrolling in charter schools, where they are now the largest racial or ethnic group.

The percentage of Hispanic students attending the state’s charter schools first surpassed that of white students in 2012-13. The next school year, it grew to more than 38 percent, compared to roughly 35 percent for white students and 22 percent for black students.

Some increases were to be expected. Hispanics account for much of Florida’s recent population growth, and a steadily rising share of public school students overall.

Their share of charter school enrollment appears to have grown more quickly.

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Fifty years since ‘Moynihan Report,’ are schools rising to the challenge of poverty?

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Editor’s note: This article draws on a symposium hosted by Education Next, which has become the subject of controversy over the journal’s latest cover. Here, we focus on its contents and their implications. –TP

Despite Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s warnings fifty years ago, the number of children born to single family homes increased while the associated disadvantages have grown even stronger.

The connection between single-parent households and poverty has been well known for decades. It was documented in a report by the late Senator on the hardships facing African-American families in the 1960s.

Yet, in the decades that followed, when looking at children’s educational outcomes, “the predictive power of single-parent family structure appears to have increased over time,” according to Kathleen Ziol-Guest, Greg Duncan and Ariel Kalil, co-authors of an article in the latest issue of Education Next.

The authors find that students in single-parent homes receive, on average, nearly two fewer years of schooling.  Furthermore, 40 percent of students in two-parent households go on to complete college, but the figure drops to less than 15 percent for students in single-parent households.

The Moynihan Report, released in 1965 during a time of racial segregation and tension, may have focused its attention on the African-American family, but researchers Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks find no evidence that single motherhood has different effects on black or white children.

Single parents can still have a positive impact on their children’s education. Zoil-Guest, Duncan and Kalil discovered that, among single mothers, for every 2 years of education of the mother there was a corresponding rise in educational attainment of the children by nearly one additional year. Other studies show that fathers active with their children’s lives decrease childhood delinquency and drug use and can raise their academic achievement.

Combined, mothers and fathers living together with their children leads to “stronger cognitive and non-cognitive skills” for the children as well as an increased likelihood to going to college, earning more money and forming “stable marriages themselves,” according to a study by the left-of-center Brookings Institute.

What can be done to mitigate the academic disadvantages of poverty and single-parent households?

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We aren’t getting any younger, maybe it’s time for education reform

FaceTheStrainDemographic changes are expected to place a greater strain on government services over the next two decades, a new study says, and that should lend urgency to calls for states to overhaul their education systems.

The report, “Turn and Face the Strain,” by Matthew Ladner, the Senior Advisor  for Policy and Research with the Foundation for Excellence in Education and  Senior Fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, warns about the problems associated with an increasing “age dependency ratio.” The report was co-released by the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Friedman Foundation.

In short, the youth population is expected to continue growing, as is the elderly population. The number of adults aged 18-64 is not expected to keep up. As a result, by 2030, there will likely be more students and retirees depending on publicly funded education, pensions and medical care, without a proportional increase in the number of taxpayers to support those services.

“Broadly speaking, the age dependency ratio represents the number of people riding in the cart, compared to the number of people pushing the cart,” Ladner writes.

He has looked before at this issue and its implications for schools. The new report, released this morning, suggests the coming demographic squeeze he has predicted in Florida and elsewhere is likely to affect states all over the country. As a result, he argues, government programs, including education systems, will face increasing pressure to produce better results at a lower cost.

Between now and 2030, the United States will see 10,000 Baby Boomers retire each day. At the same time, the population of children in grades K-12 will continue to rise. Combined, these two growing populations increase the age dependency ratio.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and education are some of the biggest expenses for state and federal governments, and the rapidly growing elderly and youth populations rely on them. Without raising taxes, cutting budgets, or implementing innovative cost-saving policies, one, or both, of these groups will lose out.

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