Advertisement
  1. Gradebook

Critics question value of foundation’s school choice survey

The FEA calls the report “poorly designed and flawed.”
A dozen protesters, including Tallahassee residents Colleen and Al Thorburn, far right, gathered outside Holy Comforter Episcopal School in Tallahassee to greet U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. DeVos spent two hours visiting classrooms at the private Christian school. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times
Published Feb. 25

A survey released Friday touting strong support of Florida’s school choice options from the Foundation for Excellence in Education — the state’s most prominent school choice proponent established by former Gov. Jeb Bush — has drawn heavy criticism from public school advocates and organizations, who contend the release is misleading at best.

The Florida Education Association, for one, deemed the survey “poorly designed and flawed,” suggesting it’s more an advocacy device than a true research instrument. The survey did emerge just as the Legislature prepares to begin session, with a series of proposals to expand vouchers and charter schools high on the Republican leadership agenda.

On the Gradebook’s Facebook page, several readers argued the survey deserved a more insightful analysis, to show that the 800-person sample skewed to older white males without children in the school system, and that the questions appeared to them to be designed to attain a certain outcome.

“Of course a pro choice group asking misleading questions is going to get the results it wants. Shouldn’t the headline be pro choice group gives survey that says people are pro choice? Or maybe this is nothing close to news,” blogger Chris Guerrieri chided, referring to our blog post.

What do they mean by calling the questions misleading?

Some pointed to the wording of this example, which yielded nearly 80 percent support: “Generally speaking, do you support giving parents the opportunity to choose where they send their child to school rather than assigning children to schools based on zip code?”

When researchers ask this question as a choice between school choice and investing in schools, they get the opposite result. The fact is, that the ‘opportunity to choose’ does not exist in a vacuum in the public debate,” FEA spokeswoman Sharon Nesvig said via email. “The authors of this survey know that and wrote this question to produce a result, rather than to learn where voters stand.”

A 2018 poll by an independent group focused on the question differently. It offered two statements relating to helping children in under-performing schools — invest in public schools or give parents more choice — and asked respondents to pick the one that represented their views. The majority in that poll selected investment, even when separated by party identity.

The FEA has been among the strongest critics of the Jeb Bush-era education model, and has sued the state several times over many aspects. It has, in turn, come under attack itself as an organization more interested in adults than in children, something it strongly rejects.

The foundation has stood by its findings, saying it demonstrates the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis are headed in the right direction with plans to eliminate a waiting list for children to get scholarships to private schools.

“Access to opportunity matters, and parents know it,” CEO Patricia Levesque said in a released statement.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  2. Jeff Eakins and MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough's last two superintendents, were hired from inside the school system. So have all others since 1967. Times staff
    Go to the school district website before 8 a.m. Monday to state your case.
  3. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
    School districts will have to report how they are providing the instruction required in Florida law.
  4. The Pasco County school district would rezone the Seven Oaks subdivision from the Wiregrass Ranch High feeder pattern to the Cypress Creek High feeder pattern, beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Pasco County school district
    The Seven Oaks subdivision is the primary target for rezoning.
  5. Fortify Florida is a new app that allows for anonymous reporting of suspected school threats. Florida Department of Education
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  7. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  8. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    School security and early learning get top billing in the first committee meetings of the looming 2020 session.
  9. This image from a Pinellas County Schools video shows an armed police officer running to respond to a fictional active shooter.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The proposal is short on details, with officials saying they want to work through specifics during negotiations.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement