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Gradebook podcast: Charter schools take over a tiny Florida school district. Who’s next?

Jefferson County’s story might offer some insights into the state’s approach to public education on a larger scale.
Somerset Academy Jefferson County in Monticello, about 25 miles east of Tallahassee, is Florida’s first all-charter school district. [Jessica Bakeman | WLRN News] [WLRN]
Published Sep. 5

The tiny Jefferson County school district, about 25 minutes outside Florida’s state capital, turned out poor student performance for more than a decade. Its finances were in peril, too, as the racially divided community battled politically over the flailing school system of about 800 students.

About three years ago, the state stepped in, declaring the district in financial emergency, and then pushing an academic turnaround plan that ultimately turned Jefferson County into a district operated by charter schools.

The efforts, though small in size, offered an insight into the possibilities of where the state might go with other, larger school districts that don’t meet the test-based accountability expectations set by lawmakers.

WLRN radio education reporter Jessica Bakeman spent close to three years looking into the tale of Jefferson County schools. She shares some of her key findings with reporter Jeff Solochek.

RELATED: See WLRN’s complete report, Chartered: Florida’s First Private Takeover Of A Public School System, for more details.

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