Florida roundup: Voucher accountability, single-gender schools and more

Students at Franklin Middle School in Tampa.

Vouchers need more accountability. So say David R. Colburn, director of the Askew Institute at the University of Florida, and Brian Dassler, chief academic officer for the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, in this exclusive op-ed for the Tampa Bay Times. Response here from the Heartland Institute, which says parental satisfaction is “a more effective form of accountability than extending mindless bureaucratic oversight to the private sector.”

New charter school to focus on “Latin and logic.” Tampa Bay Times story here. The applicant for the school is Anne Corcoran, the wife of state Rep. Richard Corcoran. He’s a future House speaker and a strong proponent of private school choice, too.

Threats to single-gender learning options. U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Barbara Mikulski are considered to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but in this op-ed for the Wall Street Journal they unite in defense of single-gender options in public schools. (They single out Florida as one of the states where such options have been under legal fire.) It’s worth noting that in our own backyard, old lines of division have also faded over this issue. Last year, John Kirtley, who chairs Step Up For Students, donated $100,000 to the Hillsborough County School District to support single-gender academies at two public middle schools. The Walton Family Foundation kicked in another $100,000.

More on race-based achievement goals. The New York Times writes today about the state Board of Education’s decision last week to set different academic achievement targets for black, white, Hispanic and other subgroups. The targets incorporate steeper rates of improvement for groups with lower proficiency rates, but they have nonetheless caused a ruckus. The parents group Fund Education Now weighs in. So does Naples Daily News columnist Brent Batten, who hears from Collier County education officials that this is “much ado about nothing.”

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.