Testing and Accountability

Florida virtual schools get letter grades after initial ‘incomplete’ ratings

Dozens of Florida schools — many of them online schools — initially rated "incomplete" by the state Department of Education now have official A-F grades. As noted by the Orlando Sentinel, school grades recently became final after the deadline for appeals passed. Of the 114 schools that received incomplete ratings when the state released preliminary grades in July, 76 now have letter grades. The grades are based on student performance on the Florida Standards Assessment, along with other factors such as learning gains. A significant number of the newly graded schools are virtual education operations that were rated incomplete because fewer than 95...

When charter schools go traditional

Four Florida charter schools face closure after receiving multiple F's under the state's grading system, but at least two will likely re-open under new management: Their local school districts. The Tampa Bay Times has detailed the closure of University Preparatory Academy, a charter school that opened three years ago in an academically struggling neighborhood of South St. Petersburg, Fla. Its charter contract is no more, and in its place, its authorizing school district is working to open Midtown Academy, a traditional public school. The move may not be entirely unprecedented. Pinellas County School district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said the district has taken over charter schools...

When unions and conservatives align on education, it’s about power

It's common for interest groups to play on both sides of the political aisle, even if they tend to lean in one direction. But when it comes to recognizing its champions in public life, the nation's largest teachers union has a long history of favoring Democrats. That's why it's noteworthy that, this month, the National Education Association bestowed its highest honor, the "Friend of Education Award," on  Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. For the NEA, this was a break from the recent past. Education Week reported Alexander is the first Republican to receive the award in more than 30 years. The...

Is there a better way to measure student achievement?

The inside-the-tent debate over virtual charter schools has highlighted an important issue about standardized testing and school accountability: There's still plenty of room to improve the ways student performance gets measured. First, a quick recap: Studies have found students enrolled in full-time online schools often struggle to make learning gains. This has alarmed many charter school advocates. Virtual charter school operators and their supporters have responded that their students often face unique issues that aren't reflected in their test score gains. Many of the people raising concerns about virtual charters acknowledge there could be hidden "x-factors" that affect students' results, but say the...

Florida virtual charter schools try to fend off closure

The school board in Hillsborough County, Fla. is looking to shut down a full-time virtual charter school, citing a range of concerns, including a low percentage of students taking state tests. Hillsborough Virtual Academy is fighting the closure on several fronts, including an administrative legal proceeding, arguing that most of the problems cited by the district have been addressed. The case raises a larger issue affecting full-time online schools in Florida, which came into view after the state issued A-F grades to public schools earlier this month: The difficulty of requiring students who take classes on their computers at home to take assessments...

Revised Democratic Party platform changes tune on charter schools

Last week, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made waves with a brief nod to charter schools when she addressed the nation's largest teachers union. The thrust of her comments largely jibed with a draft Democratic Party platform that saw some changes this week in Orlando — changes sought by anti-charter activists. The revised version still includes support for charter schools as a concept. But it clearly proscribes their role in public education, opposing charter school growth that would "replace or destabilize" existing, district-run schools. Democrats are also committed to providing parents with high-quality public school options and expanding these options for low-income youth. We support...

What to make of another negative result for school vouchers

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...

Update: Florida “double F” charter schools face shutdowns

Four Florida charter schools could soon be shut down after receiving multiple F's under the state's grading system. The preliminary letter grades, released this morning by the state Department of Education, are the first that will carry real consequences for schools under a revamped accountability system tied to new state tests once they become final. In most years, charters that receive F's in two consecutive years can be shut down automatically. But 2015's A-F grades were considered an informational baseline that did not carry consequences for schools. The state switched to the Florida Standards Assessment that year, meaning this is the first year the state could...