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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas County gets good marks for school choice



Pinellas County has scored in the top 20 nationwide for school districts with the best choices for parents.

New Orleans and New York City were ranked first and second, respectively, followed by Orleans Parish, Houston, Denver, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., and San Diego. Pinellas scored 19 - a tie with Boston.

The report comes from the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. The rankings are based on the Education Choice and Competition Index, which scores school districts based on the availability of charter schools, virtual education, vouchers and affordable private schools. It also considers how students are assigned to traditional public schools - school districts get a better score if students are assigned to schools based on their preferences rather than a default geographical area.

For many opponents of so called-school reform - with an emphasis on charter schools, vouchers and other alternatives - this report isn't going to mean much. New Orleans, for instance, has turned almost entirely to charter schools since Hurricane Katrina. That could be viewed as a positive trend by "reformers" and a negative one by supporters of traditional public education.

Many Florida school districts scored well in the report because Florida has encouraged the growth of charter schools, vouchers and the availability of virtual education. Hillsborough County was ranked 29, while Pasco County was 35. 

It's an interesting report in Pinellas County, though, because the school district is often criticized for the difficulty of its lottery system. Students are assigned neighborhood schools, but can apply to a variety of special programs, such as fundamental schools and magnets. Securing a spot in the prized schools, though, is tough. 

Superintendent Mike Grego has been pushing to expand choice options for parents to better compete against charters and private schools. 

[Last modified: Monday, January 13, 2014 12:47pm]


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