Once again, Florida school districts are well-represented in the Brookings Institution’s annual school choice rankings.
Five Sunshine State districts land in the top 25 of the think tank’s 2016 Choice and Competition Index: Pinellas, Duval, Lee, Seminole and Broward Counties. No other state has as many districts ranked so highly.
It’s worth a look at why these districts score well, and why they fall short of top scorers like Denver Public Schools and New Orleans’ Recovery School District.
Florida districts tend to score well for making options available to students, like charters, magnets, a full set of virtual options and private school scholarship programs.
They tend to miss points for things like providing common applications that allow parents to apply for all choice schools — including charter schools — through a single online portal. They also take hits for not providing transportation to schools of choice, and for not reporting student performance data online in a way that allows parents to compare schools easily.
On Wednesday, in one of her first major public speeches since becoming U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos chided top-scoring districts, like Denver, that offer a wide range of public school options but no private school choice programs. She also singled out low-scoring Mobile, Ala., which received no points for informing parents about options that exist.
“The report makes the distinction that simply having a choice program is not enough,” she said of the rankings. “It must be accessible, transparent and accountable to those who need it most.”
The report highlights ways that even the state DeVos often cites as a model could improve.