Sunshine and shame
Charter schools in Florida are on shaky ground. On one hand, they're expanding like crazy. About 98,000 students have signed up for spots in over 300 Sunshine State charters over the past decade. On the other hand, the quality of many of those schools is questionable. The Orlando Sentinel reported that in 2006, five of the state's 21 failing schools were charters--close to 25 percent--even though charter schools enroll a mere 3 percent of the state's students. What's worse, a whopping 43 percent of charters don't receive grades from Florida's accountability system, mostly because they are exempt because they have fewer than 30 students per grade level. It's no secret that the previous administration in Tallahassee put parental satisfaction and competition before top-down accountability (former Governor Jeb Bush was far more zealous in his promotion of unregulated voucher programs than charter schools). But a recent St. Petersburg Times editorial shows what can happen when charter schools aren't held to high academic standards: their traditional enemies grow emboldened. Unless Florida wants to repeat the Ohio story (see above), it better start holding charter schools accountable and uprooting the low-performing kudzu.
"Charter Schools: Missing the Grade," Orlando Sentinel Special Report