So, vouchers may have helped?
Maybe it was the sting of the F. Maybe it was the extra oversight. Maybe it was the competition introduced by vouchers. Whatever the reason, a new study has concluded that the most-struggling Florida schools got better - and their students got smarter- when the schools were confronted with the accountability pressures installed by former Gov. Jeb Bush.
The latest study of Jeb's remedy for failing schools, which included the introduction of Opportunity Scholarships - the Jeb-backed voucher ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006 - echoes findings by other researchers who, rightly or wrongly, are often dismissed by anti-Jebbies as conservative ideologues. Is the latest study more of the same? It was released as a working paper last month by the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, an outfit with ties to scholars at the Urban Institute and six universities, including the University of Florida (see a list of the scholars and universities here.)
According to the report's authors, which include UF's David Figlio, F-graded schools focused more on struggling students; lengthened teaching time; and found different ways to better organize the learning environment for students and teachers. The result: Their students' scores on the FCAT and other tests (including tests that were not high stakes and which they did not prepare for) improved faster than their counterparts at schools with higher grades.
The report's conclusion: It's still too early to say Jeb's A+ plan is the model for improving struggling schools; other performance measures need to be looked at, including some things that aren't measured by tests. But "that said, we find that accountability pressures have the potential to improve student test scores in low-performing schools, and that such pressures can induce school administrators to change their behavior in educationally beneficial ways." See the whole study for yourself here.