Faced with competition, Florida schools improved, concludes a Manhattan Institute study published in Education Next.
Florida grades schools based on their performance on the state’s high-stakes test, the FCAT. If a school receives two failing grades in a four-year period, its students are offered vouchers with which they can switch to private schools or other public schools. The study compared the gains in academic performance of public schools facing different amounts of competition from the voucher program. The analyses show that public schools in Florida made larger improvements when they were more exposed to voucher competition.
Public schools with at least two failing grades in four years gained 5.9 percentile points; schools with one F in three years gained 3.5 points. Similarly low-performing public schools that didn’t face a voucher threat made no gains or lost slightly compared to other public schools.
Overall, F schools improved more than D schools and D schools improved more than C schools, concludes another study by Rajashri Chakrabarti, also summarized in Ed Next.
Could these improvements simply reflect the stigma of being identified publicly as a low-performing school? Tellingly, I did not observe similar improvements among low-performing schools under the stateís old accountability system, which rated schools based on their performance but did not impose the threat of vouchers. Beginning in 1997, Florida schools were assigned a rating of 1 to 4 on the basis of their performance. Schools placed in group 1 (the lowest-performing set) did not improve relative to schools in group 2 or group 3. In short, there is strong evidence that F schools in Florida responded to the threat of vouchers.
The F schools didn’t catch up. They narrowed the gap.
Update: Number 2 Pencil has an extravaganza of FCAT links. Kimberly is back and blogging.