Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Districts Get Mixed Results in School Choice Index


The Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings has released its inaugural Education Choice and Competition Index. The interactive web application scores the nation’s 25 largest school districts based on 13 categories.

The index focuses on the concept of school choice, which has been popular with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature. Lawmakers passed a series of bills last spring to broaden school choice options. The result is easier expansion of virtual and charter schools, and more opportunities for kids to transfer to better performing public schools or into private schools using vouchers.

The authors write, “The ECCI provides a snapshot of the quality of education choice and competition within large school districts…The intent of the ECCI is to create public awareness of the differences among districts in their support of school choice, provide a framework for efforts to improve choice and competition, and recognize leaders among school districts in the design and implementation of choice and competition systems.”

A previous report by the Brown Center found that 25% of parents moved to a new neighborhood to get their kids into a better school. That’s not realistic in large urban areas, however, where overcrowding leads to school boundaries being constantly redrawn.

For the Education Choice and Competition Index, the nation’s 25 largest school districts were analyzed. Florida had seven districts on the list. None received an A. The New York City and Chicago districts were ranked first and second respectively, both scoring an overall grade of B. Duval County, the Jacksonville area, was ranked third.

Here are the rankings and overall grades for the Florida districts on the list:

  • Duval, 3rd, B-
  • Broward, 5th, B-
  • Pinellas, 10th, C+
  • Palm Beach, 14th (tie), C
  • Hillsborough, 14th, (tie), C
  • Dade County, 20th, C
  • Orange, 25th, D

Overall rankings were based on thirteen categories:

  • Availability of Alternative Schools
  • Policies on Virtual Education
  • Funding Follows Students
  • Restructuring or Closing Unpopular Schools
  • Assignment Mechanism
  • Application
  • Comparable Standards and Assessments
  • Gain Scores
  • Accessible Online Information
  • Additional Performance Data
  • Transportation
  • School Quality

Researchers say what sets the low performers apart from the high ranking districts is primarily the absence of school choice. They wrote, “With a quarter of America’s youth not graduating with a regular high school degree, with those students who remain in school performing at mediocre academic levels compared with students in many of the nations with which we compete, and with the costs of our public education system among the highest in the world, we believe that reform requires something other than more of the same. The wide availability of school choice based on valid information on school performance and with consequences for schools based on their popularity is, we believe, a foundation for progress.”

This is the first year of the ECCI. The authors plan to expand the list to at least the largest 100 districts for future reports.


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