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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Think tank: Pinellas gets C+ for school choice, Hillsborough gets C



In a ranking of the 25 biggest school districts in the country, Pinellas gets a C+ for its school choice policies and practices and Hillsborough gets a C, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution.

Top grades went to New York City and Chicago, which earned B's. The lowest went to Orange County in Florida, which earned a D. Duval County and Broward County in Florida earned the third- and fifth-highest ratings, respectively, both of which translated into B- grades.

Brookings favors expanded school choice, including charters, vouchers and traditional public choice options like magnet schools. Its scoring criteria involves a long list of factors, including the number of choice options available to parents, accessibility to virtual schools and how well choice information is publicized.

The Orange County district said the report was flawed, according to this story in today's New York Times. Here's the snippet about Orange:

The Brookings report, called the Education Choice and Competition Index, awarded no A’s or F’s: the nation’s 25 largest districts earned 6 B’s, 18 C’s and 1 D. “Nobody was close to perfection,” Dr. Whitehurst explained, “and no district was terrible in everything.”

In Orange County in Florida, for instance, students have better virtual-school options than do New Yorkers, and the district’s Web site is easier to understand and navigate than New York’s, the report said. But Brookings said the district did not provide students and parents with much actual choice because most students are zoned to attend a school near their residence.

A spokeswoman for the district disagreed, noting that Orange County has several magnet schools and 30 charter schools and that it provides some students free busing to attend them.

“Holy mackerel, that’s so inaccurate,” the spokeswoman, Katherine P. Marsh, said of the report, noting that 26,000 of the district’s 179,000 students last year chose to attend a school other than the one for which they were zoned.

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 10:20am]


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