Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Reading test results: More on how 3rd-graders performed on the Florida Standards Assessments language arts testing in districts around the state. Test results are a major factor in determining if students are promoted to the 4th grade. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Gradebook. WUSF. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Daily Commercial. Lakeland Ledger. Chipley Bugle. WMBB. State testing went smoothly for Sarasota County students, district officials say. More than 76,000 tests were taken this year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Bargaining suit challenge: Officials of teachers unions around Florida say they will file suit against a new law that requires more than half of eligible teachers to be dues-paying members of a union or the union should be decertified. Teachers argue the law, which takes effect July 1, is unconstitutional because it defies a provision added to the constitution in 1968 after a teachers strike, and discriminatory because it targets only them. WLRN. Teachers talk about union membership and how they think it’s affected their paychecks and classrooms. WLRN.
School security: The Brevard County School District begins advertising to fill 28 school security specialist positions for the 2018-2019 school year. The pay is listed at $25,444 to $37,915 for the 10-month position, with benefits pushing the value of the package to about $40,400. The specialists, who will carry concealed weapons, will work at elementary schools that don’t already have a resource officer. Florida Today. Orlando Sentinel. WOFL. The executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council says he has concerns about the Sarasota County School District’s ability to hire and train a police department by August, and has pulled out of a consulting role with the district. “We only lend our name and our expertise to processes that we have confidence are going to be 100 percent successful,” says Curt Lavarello. “At this point, I don’t have that feeling that this is on the path to success, from what I’ve heard.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Charter school scarcity: A new report concludes that Florida has one of the highest number of charter school “deserts,” which are defined as three or more contiguous census tracts with poverty rates above 20 percent and no charter elementary schools. The charter-friendly Thomas B. Fordham Institute identified about 20 such areas in and around Miami, Orlando and Tampa/St. Petersburg. “Despite the thousands of charter schools opened [nationally] over the past twenty-five years,” the report concludes, “many more are needed if low-income students in every part of America are to have the options they need.” Gradebook. redefinED.
H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Duval County School Board members vote against joining an appeal of the latest decision against 13 school boards that are challenging the constitutionality of the state’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069, saying they can’t afford to continue. Lee and Bay county school boards have already committed to an appeal. School boards in Alachua, Broward, Clay, Hamilton, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla counties have yet to decide. Florida Times-Union.
School shooting defense: The Broward County School Board is trying to limit its liability by having a court label the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre as a single incident with many victims. The board’s liability for each incident is $300,000. Seventeen were killed and 17 wounded on Feb. 14, and a lawyer for one of the wounded victims wants the court to declare each victim a separate incident. Sun-Sentinel.
Florida is one of the leading states in the nation for public school choice. Its charter schools are widespread, often serving rural or suburban areas. Nevertheless, the state is home to more than its share of charter school “deserts,” according to a new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
The charter-friendly think tank used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to map high-poverty areas around the county. It counted a string of three Census tracts with high or moderate poverty levels, and no charter schools, as a desert. Florida is home to 20 such areas.
Looking at the report, and three urban areas it highlights, offers several takeaways for Florida’s charter school movement.
This is why ‘Hope’ matters.
ESSA plan: Florida’s plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) did not include requests for waivers on some rules, but it does detail how the state will work around the rules the state originally wanted waivers from. Florida would continue to report the progress of students by a variety of demographic breakdowns, but would not use those students’ performance in compiling school grades. The U.S. Department of Education still has to approve the plan. If it’s rejected, the state would have to adjust it or potentially lose federal funding. Gradebook. The 74.
Charters, district reach deal: A recently reached settlement calls for the Indian River County School District to pay $2.5 million to five charter schools. The agreement ends a lawsuit the charters brought that alleged the district unlawfully withheld money the charters should have received during the past four years. Each charter will receive an amount based on enrollment. TCPalm.
Storm aftermath: Some school districts announce decisions about making up days lost to Hurricane Irma, while others are still considering their options. Lakeland Ledger. Gradebook. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. Ocala Star-Banner. A review after Hurricane Irma raises questions about the safety of shelters – many of them public schools. Tampa Bay Times. Flagler County school officials expect to file a claim for reimbursement of about $500,000 from FEMA. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Teacher absenteeism: Traditional public school teachers are much more likely to be chronically absent from work than charter school teachers, according to a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. About 28 percent of the traditional public school teachers took more than 10 sick or personal leave days a year, according to the study, compared to about 10 percent of charter school teachers. In Florida, the rate is 41.5 percent of traditional public schools teachers, compared with 9.3 percent of charter school teachers. “I think the biggest takeaway is that teacher chronic absenteeism seems to be driven by state policy and local collective bargaining agreements,” says study author David Griffith. Education Week. Fox News. redefinED.
Students in Ohio’s private school voucher program make less academic progress than their peers in public schools. But the program has a positive effect on public school performance, perhaps because it spurs competition. While the program is aimed at mostly disadvantaged students from struggling public schools, it tends to attract the better-off students within that group.
In short, the key findings from a new, deep dive into the Buckeye State’s EdChoice program undercut some of the usual talking points on both sides of the school choice debate.
The report, published last week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is the first study of Ohio’s largest voucher program based on individual test results. The study looked at data through the 2012-13 school year for a program that serves some 18,000 students.
The research was done by David Figlio, a researcher who’s well known in Florida school choice circles and previously performed evaluations of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program*, along with Krzysztof Karbownik, a postdoctoral research fellow at Northwestern University.
Their findings have implications not just for Ohio, but for private school choice programs in other parts of the country. Here’s a look at what the study found, and why it matters.
Ohio’s voucher program is targeted at students who attend public schools that score low in the state accountability system. Students who use vouchers tend to be economically disadvantaged, but compared to students who qualify for vouchers, the ones who actually use the program tend to be better off, both academically and socioeconomically.
What happens when parents have the ability to take the state education funding associated with their children, and spend it on their own, customized mix of options, from private schools to virtual schools to tutoring services?
That’s the question raised by the proliferation of education savings accounts, which have been created by laws in five states and counting, including Florida.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has convened policy wonks from all over the education world to chew on the question of how these programs should be regulated, with a focus on a newly created Nevada program that offers education savings accounts to all students who currently attend public schools.
We’ll have more to say on this issue, but for now it’s worth teasing out some important points raised by Fordham’s contributors.
Charter school consultant Neerav Kingsland questions whether Nevada’s program can offer families, especially low-income families, enough money to truly benefit.
Depending on their income level, a family in Nevada will soon receive between $5,100 and $5,700 to spend on education services.
This is a lot of power over a relatively low amount of money. Due to this low level of funding, an otherwise innovative regulatory policy will face significant quality and equity challenges.
Education consultant Andy Smarick sounds another important note of caution:
Unfortunately, public policy seldom goes exactly according to plan. Our experience with NCLB tutoring is instructive. It too was supposed to empower families and create a vibrant supply of services. But the law didn’t work as expected. The existing system found the cleverest ways to gum up the works; in the end, few families participated, and the results were disappointing.