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Testing and Accountability

Time to cancel the Apocalypse talk for Florida public schools

“Pacific Rim” is without a doubt the greatest “giant robots smashing giant monsters” movie in the long and storied history of cinema. Okay, so the only real competition was the wretched “Pacific Rim 2” and maybe a few Japanese movies with people wearing rubber suits stomping on model buildings. Honest Trailers described “Pacific Rim” as either “The Most Awesome Dumb Movie of All Time” or “the Dumbest Awesome Movie of All Time.” “Pacific Rim” did indeed have everything your inner 9-year-old craves, including the above “Today we are cancelling the Apocalypse!” speech from the great Idris Elba. So anyhoo –...

What do SAT scores really say about Florida’s K-12 education?

Routinely underappreciated, Florida’s K-12 schools do outstanding work with what they are given. Despite a relatively large low-income/working-class majority-minority student population and low per-pupil funding compared to other states, Florida performs about middle of the pack on national assessments. Results look even better when making apples-to-apples comparisons, which include controlling for racial and income differences between states.  Unfortunately, that good news is often ignored by many professing anxiety over education quality in the Sunshine State. The latest concern over the quality focuses on college readiness, specifically SAT scores, and suffers from a flawed apples-to-oranges comparison. According to the College Board, just 35...

Media shouldn’t ignore good news about Florida public schools

The recent Education Week report that ranked Florida public schools No. 4 in the nation in academic achievement was well-deserved recognition for this state’s underappreciated schools. It arrived in the thick of an election season where public education has been front-burner. And, given the less-than-glowing reputation of Florida’s education system, it bore all the markings of a flying pig. Florida No. 4 in academics?! Stop the presses! Yet in a state with 21 million people, only one media outlet covered it. On the flip side: Last week, another report found Florida to be the fifth-worst state to be a teacher. This...

Less school regs, more school choice

Consumer choice and government regulation comprise the two components of educational accountability systems. In the areas of home-schooling and private schools, Florida has struck a good balance between regulations and choice, but the public district and charter schools are overregulated. To achieve a more appropriate balance, public schools need less regulation and more consumer choice. The accountability system for homeschools is instructive for private and public schools. Parents must notify their school district in writing when they intend to create a home school program. They must keep a portfolio for two years of all the instructional activities and materials used...

Education Week: Florida public schools No. 4 in America in K-12 achievement

Florida public schools now rank No. 4 in academic achievement, behind only Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia, according to the latest annual “Quality Counts” report from Education Week, released  this week. Though it’s not noted in the report, Florida has a far higher rate of low-income students than any state in the Top 10, with roughly 60 percent of its students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch. The latest ranking is Florida’s highest ever. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, it punctuates a decade-long run. Since 2009, Florida has, by Education Week’s analysis, finished at No. 7, No. 7,...

Customization can lead to eliminating school grades and better accountability

The state of Florida’s latest annual report on the performance of students receiving tax credit scholarships contained these facts: 22.9 percent of scholarship students came from public schools rated “D” or “F” in the prior school year, while 30.3 percent of came from public schools rated “A” or “B.” School grades are intended to inform parents about the effectiveness of district and charter schools, but tax credit scholarship parents aren’t impressed. Apparently, most of these low-income and working-class parents are using other means to determine which schools will work best for their children. I was skeptical when Florida first started grading...

Flori-duh? Florida public schools rising

A few months ago, the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress – the gold standard of standardized tests – showed Florida, again, made a national splash. This time, it notched the biggest gains in America. You’d think the biggest gains in America would prompt applause from school boards, superintendents, teacher unions, and allied lawmakers. But no. In Florida, good news about public schools is increasingly ignored by public school groups; media coverage is mostly crickets (recent exception here); and alternative facts seed conspiracy theories. No wonder, then, that plenty of candidates for political office are again vying to...

Report: Progress ongoing for students in nation’s largest private school choice program

For the 10th year in a row, Florida’s most disadvantaged students are making solid academic gains using the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, the nation’s largest private school choice program, according to the latest annual evaluation of standardized test results. The evaluation report for the 2016-17 school year, published Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education, is the 10th to measure academic progress, as required by state law. The latest report is the fourth from researchers at the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University. Prior studies were conducted by David Figlio at the University of Florida and Northwestern University. Since the...