Archive | Education Research

Florida schools roundup: Private and charter school growth, lawsuit and more

Private, charter growth: Private school enrollment is up 6.5 percent in Florida, the sixth straight year of growth, and now makes up 11.6 percent of all pre-K through 12th grade students. There are 368,321 school students at 2,663 private schools in the state, according to the annual report from the Florida Department of Education. Miami-Dade County has the most at 76,022. redefinED. Hillsborough County school officials expect 21,626 district students to attend charter schools in the next school year, an increase of about 22 percent. Charter students now make up about 10 percent of all students in Hillsborough. Gradebook.

Students sue district: Two former Miami-Dade County School District students are suing the district after they found their Social Security numbers and test scores on the district’s website. District officials call the breach an isolated incident and say a forensic review is being conducted to find out where the information came from and whether it is authentic. Miami Herald.

District hires lobbyist: The Miami-Dade County School District hire Ballard Partners to lobby for the district’s interests in Congress and several federal agencies. The contract is for three years at a rate of $108,000 a year. It’s the first time since 2008 the district has had a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. “We’ve always had a very active presence at the federal level, but in light of the new players in the administration we felt it was prudent to seek assistance in being able to have additional access,” said Iraida Mendez-Cartaya, who runs the district’s office of intergovernmental affairs. Miami Herald.

Charter vendor arrested: Steven J. Kunkemoeller, charged with fraud and racketeering in connection with the operation of charter schools in Florida, is arrested in Pensacola. He operated two companies that allegedly sold school materials at inflated prices to Newpoint Education Partners. Newpoint founder Marcus May, who has also been charged with fraud and racketeering, has not yet turned himself in. Gradebook. An Escambia County commissioner accuses the school district of trying to hide misconduct at the counties’ three Newpoint charter schools. Jeff Bergosh says for a year, district officials ignored complaints about grade-fixing, organized cheating and student safety issues. School officials dismiss Bergosh’s allegations. Pensacola News Journal. Continue Reading →

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Virtual charters and the profit motive

For some charter school advocates, poor results in virtual charter schools are raising thorny questions about the role of the profit motive in education.

A new study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes suggests for-profit schools slightly under-perform their not-for-profit counterparts. But it shows the differences are fairly small, and other factors might make a bigger difference.

However, some of the lowest-performing networks identified by the study consist entirely of full-time virtual charter schools. During multiple sessions at a national charter school conference in Washington D.C., attendees wrestled with the implications.

It’s clear access to virtual schools can be a boon for students looking for courses their local schools don’t offer, and those for whom bullying, medical conditions or other circumstances make traditional brick-and-mortar schools untenable.

In part for those reasons, Jonathan Cetel of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now said he’s not categorically opposed to profit-making education providers, including in the virtual realm. It’s likely private companies brought much-needed investment that government and not-for-profit groups would never have delivered to a cutting-edge area of education. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, S.B. 374, charter networks study and more

H.B. 7069: Sources say Gov. Rick Scott will sign the education bill, H.B. 7069, into law Thursday in Orlando, according to the website Florida Politics. The most controversial section of the bill creates a fund to recruit high-performing charter schools into areas with persistently struggling schools. The bill also requires 20 minutes of recess a day for traditional public elementary school students, includes more than $200 million to provide bonuses for teachers and principals, kills the end-of-course Algebra 2 exam and pushes Florida Standards Assessments testing to the end of the school year. Florida Politics. Gov. Scott is also still considering whether to sign S.B. 374, the higher education bill that includes an expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program. Tallahassee Democrat.

Charter networks: High-profile charter schools companies are improving student achievement, according to a study by charter school researchers at Stanford University. The study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes also suggests larger charter networks outperform standalone charters, nonprofit charters generally do better than for-profits, and virtual charter school students struggle to keep up. redefinED.

District finances: Volusia County school officials say they’ll collect an extra $4.6 million from the state because of the legislative special session deal on per-pupil spending. The school board meets today to discuss how to close the rest of the projected budget shortfall. Daytona Beach News-Journal. St. Johns County school officials say the extra money from the Legislature is barely enough to keep up with inflation, and doesn’t do enough to support enrollment growth. St. Augustine Record. Continue Reading →

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New study finds big differences among charter school networks

Not all charter school organizations are created equal. That’s the bottom line of a blockbuster new report by widely cited charter school researchers at Stanford University.

The study, released today by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, looks at how students enrolled in different charter school organizations performed compared to similar “virtual peers” in traditional public schools.

It contains some eye-popping numbers that shed light on the charter school debate in Florida.

The results suggest large-scale management organizations tend to outperform standalone schools. But they also reinforce older findings that students in virtual charter schools tend to lose academic ground, and suggest non-profit charter schools do better than their for-profit counterparts, on average.

The findings might offer new ammunition to advocates for Schools of Hope, an initiative backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran that’s now part of a massive, controversial education bill.

The study shows some high-profile national charter school networks, like KIPP, IDEA Public Schools and Success Academy, lift student achievement in a big way. Those are the kinds of organizations Florida has struggled to attract, though some top lawmakers are eager to change that.

The pending Florida legislation, HB 7069, includes several methods to separate “high-impact” charter organizations from their mediocre or low-performing counterparts. Charter school operators could qualify for state grants and a streamlined application process if they prove they’re in the former group.

Continue Reading →

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Everyone’s talking about personalized learning

Sajan George, the founder of Matchbook Learning, gives the closing address at the American Federation for Children’s annual policy summit.

Educators and policymakers at the American Federation of Children‘s annual summit in Indianapolis this week were all speaking in unison about a shift in the classroom that they believe will improve student achievement: personalizing learning to meet the needs of individual students, allowing them to learn at their own pace.

A week earlier, at a separate event, the New Schools Venture Fund Summit sounded a similar theme.

Personalized learning has been a talking point in education policy circles for years. Some skeptics argue that what some people call “personalization,” is really just a new-fangled buzzword for plain good teaching that takes students’ individual needs and abilities into account.

Still, the buzz coming out of education conferences shows how personalized learning has become a focal point for philanthropists and practitioners. During a time of growing ideological division, it is one of the few concepts that still unites disparate wings of the education reform movement.

At the ACF summit, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said customizing learning and considering the “uniqueness” of each student is a critical step in the future of education.

“Students learn in different ways,” he said.

Bush said only one-third of the country’s children are college or career ready — a statistic he said illustrates the urgency of improving education for every child. Continue Reading →

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Testing Choice

I get The New York Times. Each morning, it identifies the world’s battlegrounds — military and ideological, political and economic. I discount and forgive its plainly “liberal” bent. If I owned a paper, it would have a tone of sorts.

But there are limits. One, I suggest, is the duty of all media, at an ethical minimum, to recognize, if only to dismiss, plausible arguments on all sides of any public issue. Readers deserve to know the writer’s pre-judgments.

The Times is a collection of heady folk; one expects the best from them. Sadly, along with most of their profession, they have remained silent on the strongest argument for extending to the lower-income parent the same power of choice among all educators that is available, and so precious, to our middle- and upper-income classes.

In April, the Times offered its view on the efficacy of one form of empowerment for the non-rich under the headline: “Vouchers Found to Lower Test Scores in Washington Schools.” The article discussed a study originating from the anti-voucher Obama Department of Education; it found that vouchers for choice of private schools by poor families in D.C. were followed by slightly lower scores on required tests. The Times cited a few concurring studies but strangely failed to note that these reports contradict two dozen other professional analyses.

But that particular form of selective reportage is not the only concern here. Much more troubling is the Times writer’s assumption that test scores are the litmus test for success in school, and that, if scores slightly declined, there would be no justification for letting poor parents make those choices so dear to the rest of us.

The test score infatuation is still widely shared by the media. Historically, it stems in considerable part from the purely economic argument for choice so welcome to the utilitarian minds of the ’60s and even today. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Pre-K report, resegregation, private schools and more

Pre-K access, funding: Florida ranks second in the nation in providing access to pre-kindergarten programs, but just 40th in per-student funding, according to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research. Florida enrolled about 76 percent of all eligible 4-year-olds, trailing only the District of Columbia, but its per-student funding amount of $2,353 is less than half the national average. Florida also meets just three of the 10 quality measures, the report concludes. Gradebook.

School resegregation: A study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA contends that the proliferation of school choice programs is contributing to the resegregation of public schools in Florida and the rest of the South. The report says 34.6 percent of Florida’s black students and 32.1 percent of Hispanic students attended schools with 90 percent or more minorities in 2014, when the overall student population was 22.3 percent black and 30.9 percent Hispanic. Florida has one of the highest charter school expansion rates, according to the report. Gradebook.

Private school changes: Historically, private schools were often places where white students went to get away from public schools. Increasingly, that is changing, with many private schools now filled with low-income or disabled students who use scholarships from the state to attend. “The historically unfavored are now being favored, are now being accepted,” says Vernard Grant, director of the ACE Student Success Center with the Association of Christian Schools International. redefinED.

Education bill feedback: A slight majority of Floridians is now urging Gov. Rick Scott to sign the education bill. A week ago, about 75 percent of those who had contacted the governor wanted him to veto H.B. 7069. The change of sentiment is widely thought to be attributed to organized campaigns by school choice advocates. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Budget, recess, ‘schools of hope’ and more

Education budget: The Legislature approves a massive education bill that would, among other things, require 20 minutes of recess daily for traditional public elementary schools, provide $140 million in incentive money for charter schools – called “schools of hope” – to move into areas with struggling schools, allot $234 million for bonuses to teachers and principals, and make changes in the standardized testing process. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, calls it “the greatest education K-12 policy we’ve passed in the history of the state.” Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, calls it a “piece of junk,” and others acknowledge parts of the bill will have to be “fixed” in the 2018 legislative session. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Associated PressPolitico Florida. redefinED. Accountability measures for charter schools that were proposed early in the legislative session disappeared from the education bill that was put together last Friday. Miami Herald. More school districts lobby against the education budget, urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto it, but also start preparing for the cuts they say will be required. Gradebook. Florida Times-Union. The state’s largest teachers union joins those calling on Scott to veto the bill. Miami Herald.

State budget: The Legislature approves the $83 billion budget bill, which now goes to Gov. Rick Scott. Included in it were the nearly 300-page education bill that expands charter school options, among other things, but not many of Scott’s priorities. Tampa Bay Times. Sun-Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Naples Daily News. Sarasota Herald-TribunePolitico Florida.

Testing practice: Orange County students say online practice tests are boosting their test scores when they take the SAT college admissions exam. College Board officials attribute the average 115-point gain from the PSAT to the SAT to the Khan Academy’s free online practice tests. The College Board partners with Khan to provide the tests. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Continue Reading →