School CHOICE Options

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1 School CHOICE Options Florida Continues to Lead the Nation March 2011 FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options

2 Production of this publication was a cooperative effort between the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice and K-12 Public Schools in the Florida Department of Education. For additional information about school choice options, call the toll-free School Choice Hotline at: (800) Detailed information about the school choice options described in this document is available on the Department of Education Web site at: and

3 TABLE OF CONTENTS FLORIDA: Empowering Parents and Students with High-Quality School Choice Options Charter Schools...2 Charter Technical Career Centers...3 Virtual Education...4 Florida Virtual School...5 School District Virtual Instruction Program...5 Florida s Voluntary Public School Choice Program...6 Controlled Open Enrollment...7 Other Public School Options...8 Magnet Schools...8 Career and Professional Academies...8 Dual Enrollment...9 Advanced Placement (AP) Program...9 Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Program...9 International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program...9 No Child Left Behind School Choice...10 Scholarship Programs...11 John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program...11 Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program...12 Scholarship Funding Organizations and Private Partners...13 Opportunity Scholarship Program - Public School Option...13 Private Schools...14 Home Education...14 Conclusion...15 Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options [iii]

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5 FLORIDA: EMPOWERING PARENTS AND STUDENTS WITH HIGH-QUALITY SCHOOL CHOICE OPTIONS School choice strengthens the availability and quality of educational options allowing parents to compare and then select the best learning environment for their children. Educational research has suggested repeatedly that the number one indicator in a child s academic success is the presence and involvement of the parent. Positive outcomes take place when families have choices in education for their children. Access to diverse school environments and programs empowers parents to become managers of their children s education. Florida leads the nation in school choice options, and the number of families and students taking advantage of these opportunities continues to increase each year. Tens of thousands of families and students benefit from school choices. The latest data provided by school districts indicate that, to date, one in four of Florida s K-12 public school students chose a school other than the one to which they were assigned. Several thousand more participate in other options including virtual education, home education, and private schools. K-12 Student Participation in Florida s School Choice Options Year Total K-12 Public School Student Membership Number of Students Attending Schools Based on Parental School Choice Options Percent of Students Attending Schools Based on Parental School Choice Options ,634, ,283 26% ,650, ,451 25% ,652, ,184 24% ,946, ,115 23% ,901, ,988 23% ,912, ,442 22% While having the highest number of options is a significant accomplishment, Florida continues to focus on improving the quality of those options available to parents. All students have the right to a high-quality, challenging education that prepares them for a global economy. During the past few years, Florida has passed legislation strengthening accountability in a number of choice programs and expanding proven programs, which allows more students to benefit from highquality choices. Parents understand the personality, the needs and strengths of their children, and what type of education will help them excel. As new choices are implemented and current choices expand, it is imperative that parents be well-informed of their options in order to make the best decision for their children. That is why it is Florida s highest priority not only to inform, but to educate all parents about the options available to them. Florida continues to search for and implement new ways to reach families and equip them with the knowledge and skills to pursue the best possible setting for their children. Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options [1]

6 CHARTER SCHOOLS Charter schools are public schools that are independently operated and committed to academic achievement. Since 1996, charter schools have played a key role in increasing parental options in public education and providing innovative learning opportunities for Florida students. With 458 charter schools currently operating during the school year, Florida has the third highest number of charter schools in the nation. From schools specializing in the performing arts to focusing on technical training, Florida s charter schools cover the spectrum of educational needs. Florida s charter schools strive to provide parents with innovative and effective instructional delivery methods, alternative curriculum and more chances for parental involvement. While authorized by local school districts, charter schools are largely free to select their curriculum and instructional models and provide an array of programs and choices to underserved groups of students. Over 154,000 students currently attend charter schools in Florida. Florida Charter School PK-12 Enrollment is Increasing 40,465 53,016 67,512 82,531 Approximately 42% of students that attended charter schools were eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program for the school year. Charter School Student Eligibility for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch 58% Thirty-nine percent of students enrolled in charter schools in the school year were white. Hispanics represented the next largest population with 33% participation, followed by African Americans with 22% participation. 92,214 98,755 42% 105,239 Free/Reduced Lunch Not Eligible or Did Not Apply 118, ,196 25,989 16, [2] Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options

7 Race/Ethnicity of Charter School Students, % 33% Charter Schools Measuring Up to the Challenge In , 111 out of 368 (30%) charter schools that were assigned an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status met all the criteria for AYP, as compared to 361 out of 3,055 (12%) traditional public schools that were assigned an AYP status. Seventy-one percent of the 274 operating charter schools that were graded for the school year earned a school performance grade of A or B. 57% 22% 39% White African American Hispanic Other 2010 Charter School Performance Grades 22% 14% 6% 15% 8% 157 Schools earned an A 38 Schools earned an B 40 Schools earned an C 23 Schools earned an D 16 Schools earned an F CHARTER TECHNICAL CAREER CENTERS The State of Florida had three charter technical career centers with a total enrollment of 6,332 students for the school year. These centers and their sponsors are: Advanced Technology College (ATC) Daytona State College First Coast Technical College (FCTC) St. Johns County School Board Lake Technical Center (LTC) Lake County School Board The charter technical career centers provide comprehensive and innovative technical education programs, services, and customized training to meet the needs of citizens, business, and industry. Charter technical career centers aim to develop a competitive workforce using a training and education model reflective of marketplace realities. The career centers offer a continuum of career educational opportunities using a school-to-work, tech-prep, technical, academy, or magnet school model. The centers provide career pathways for lifelong learning and career mobility and enhance career and technical training. A charter technical career center may be formed by creating a new school or converting an existing school district or community college program to charter technical status. The center operates under a charter granted by a district school board, a community college board of trustees or a consortium of one or more district school boards and community college boards of trustees. Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options [3]

8 VIRTUAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS State Virtual School: Florida Virtual School (FLVS) District online programs: School District Virtual Instruction Programs (VIP) District Franchises of FLVS Florida students have more access to online learning than students in any other state. Florida has the largest and most successful state virtual school in the United States, Florida Virtual School (FLVS), and through the School District Virtual Instruction Program (VIP), all Florida school districts offer fulltime virtual instruction programs for students in grades K-12. School districts may offer individual online courses through their district VIP for grade 9-12 students enrolled in dropout prevention and Department of Juvenile Justice programs. Districts may also offer core courses to meet class size requirements and community college courses. Additionally, many districts also operate franchises of Florida Virtual School. All of Florida s virtual schools and programs are designated by law as school choice options for Florida families. Teachers in these programs must hold Florida teaching certificates and the curriculum must meet state standards. Full-time public school students participate in state assessments, and fulltime schools and programs receive school grades through Florida s accountability system. Florida Virtual School (FLVS) Florida s Public K-12 Virtual Education Options, District Franchise of FLVS District Virtual Instruction Program (VIP) Other District Programs State-level K-8 Virtual School Programs (FCA and FLVA) Transitioning Out Level State District District District State Start Date Type of Program Part-time/full-time Part-time/full-time Primarily full-time May offer limited part-time in grades 9-12 Supplemental instruction in district schools Full-time Grade Levels Grades 6-12 Grades 6-12 Grades K-12 Varies Grades K-8 Student Eligibility Public, private, and home education students Public, private, and home education students Public school students, military dependents and siblings Public school students in district public schools Only returning students as program is phasing out [4] Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options

9 Florida Virtual School (FLVS) Florida Virtual School led the way in making online education accessible to Florida students. The school was created in 1997 and had 77 semester enrollments the first year. In , FLVS had 213,296 semester course enrollments and 97,183 students, an increase of 28% and 35% from the prior year. Legislation enacted in 2002 and 2003 granted parental rights for public school choice and listed FLVS as an option. All Florida students, including public, charter, private, and home education students may access FLVS courses for free. FLVS currently offers a middle school and high school curriculum with over 125 online courses, from general to Honors to 14 Advanced Placement (AP) courses. FLVS also partnered with Connections Academy to provide a full-time program for students in grades K-12. Participation in FLVS is Increasing 213,926 School District Virtual Instruction Program (VIP) Beginning in , all 67 Florida school districts offer a full-time virtual education option for their students through the School District Virtual Instructional Programs (VIP). School districts have a number of options for offering this virtual instruction for their students. They are able to contract with FLVS, establish a franchise of FLVS, contract with online learning providers approved by the Department of Education, enter into an agreement with another school district or with a Florida community college for the services, enter into a multidistrict agreement, or operate their own program. District VIPs are able to serve public school students, military dependents that recently moved to Florida and siblings of current VIP students who were also enrolled in the virtual program at the end of the previous year. Approximately 2,000 full-time students participated in the first year of full implementation with an undetermined number of additional students exercising this option through district franchises of FLVS. District Franchises of FLVS Thirty-eight school districts currently operate franchises of FLVS, serving grades 6-12 (as of fall 2010). District franchises use district teachers to teach FLVS courses. FLVS also provides district franchises with teacher training and mentoring, leadership training, and many learning resources and tools. In , franchises reported 17,394 semester enrollments. District franchises are able to serve public, charter, home education, and private school students. The number of district franchises has more than doubled in each of the last two years growing from 8 to 17 from to , and increasing to 38 in , , ,043 10,050 56,130 36,679 24,160 12, *Completions are measured as half-credit enrollments, based on Florida Virtual School Classic (FLVS) student completions during a 12-month period. Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options [5]

10 FLORIDA S VOLUNTARY PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAM The Florida Department of Education (DOE) was awarded a grant under the 2007 Federal Voluntary Public School Choice (VPSC) Program. This grant assists the DOE and school districts in creating, expanding, and improving public school choice opportunities in Florida. The VPSC Program aims to strengthen the availability, accessibility, and equity of educational options for parents to secure a highquality education for their children. One focus of the grant is to expand public school choices through the use of interdistrict agreements in which students from lower performing schools can transfer to higher-performing schools or programs within a district or across district boundaries. The DOE is working closely with Hillsborough, Polk, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties to implement transfer agreements for students. Hillsborough is expanding and enhancing their current interdistrict program by replicating an advanced studies choice program at low performing schools. Polk County has created and maintained a powerful coalition of school districts that share resources and best practices to intensely focus on increasing choice options for all students with an emphasis on low performing, disengaged, and disenfranchised secondary school students. Palm Beach and Monroe counties have replicated a culinary career academy, previously not a viable school choice option, as a school-within-aschool choice center academy model in a Monroe Title I school. The University of South Florida s Alliance for Applied Research in Education and Anthropology (AAREA) is collecting and analyzing achievement data for students who take part in the interdistrict agreements. A second focus of the grant is to reach out and educate parents, especially families in low-income areas, about all choice options available to them. To meet this objective, the DOE is working with Children s Champions, Inc., a non-profit organization, to maintain eight School Choice Parent Resource Centers (SCPRC) located regionally throughout the state. The SCPRCs assist families with the paperwork required to transfer their students to higher-performing schools or programs, and offer information and assistance about all school choice options available to parents. Additionally, the SCPRCs provide workshops for parents at each of the centers and on-site in lower performing schools. Florida School Choice Parent Resource Centers Gadsden School District / Mobile PRC Institute For Child & Family Health (ICFH) All Aboard Educational Services, Miami-Dade (2 locations) Fresh Ministries East Jacksonville Neighborhood Resource Center Educate Today, Inc. Hillsborough Latino Leadership Orange County Families Count Escambia County Hispanic Human Resources Council, Inc. Palm Beach [6] Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options

11 Additionally, working with the DOE and the SCPRCs is a statewide School Choice Parent Advisory Council (SCPAC) that helps support the Outreach to Parents initiative. The SCPAC s mission is to develop and implement strategies so that All Florida parents will be informed of all educational options and opportunities. Members are appointed by the Commissioner of Education and include parents, school district choice personnel, and representatives of parent organizations such as, but not limited to, Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) and the Florida Parental Information and Resource Center (PIRC). Efforts are being made to create local SCPACs to get local parents and business partners involved with school choice initiatives. Florida continues to support and promote school choice, and this grant represents another step in developing high-quality educational choice and in educating parents so they can make the best decision for their children. CONTROLLED OPEN ENROLLMENT The Florida Legislature recognizes the value of an educational system that provides numerous and meaningful options for students and their parents. In order to promote parental involvement in the school selection process, Florida enacted legislation in 1996 requiring each district school board to develop a plan providing for a controlled open enrollment public education delivery system. These systems allow school districts to make student school assignments using parents indicated preferential school choice as a significant factor. In requiring each school district to develop an open enrollment choice plan, the Legislature expressed the belief that public school choice will: Cultivate constructive competition Serve as an impetus for academic improvement Foster greater accountability within the school system Each district school board may offer controlled open enrollment within the public schools in addition to the existing choice programs such as magnet schools, alternative schools, special programs, advanced placement, and dual enrollment. Controlled open enrollment emphasizes the rights for families to choose among existing public schools. Instead of being assigned to a public school by a school district based on attendance zones, parents may choose a school from anywhere within the district or, if not geographically feasible, from within established zones or boundaries within the district. To ensure that school districts comply with legislative requirements and to evaluate the voluntary implementation of controlled open enrollment throughout the state, the Department of Education created a reporting format that requires school districts to collect and report data regarding educational choice options. School districts report student data for educational choice each August via the state s Automated Student Information Data Base. As reported for the school year, over 315,000 students in 54 of the state s 67 school districts, or about 11% of the total number of students enrolled in the state, attended a Florida public school through the districts controlled open enrollment program. Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options [7]

12 OTHER PUBLIC SCHOOL OPTIONS Various options are used across Florida to respond to the unique learning needs of every school district s students and communities. The most common form of public school choice is offering a variety of courses and electives to meet graduation requirements for high school and allowing students to select the courses that will best meet their learning needs. Among the other choice options being implemented by districts used to meet student and parental needs are magnet schools, career and professional academies, and intensive nationally and internationally recognized instructional programs. Magnet Schools Magnet schools are public schools with a particular theme or academic focus on topics such as medical, criminal justice, science and mathematics, technology, performing arts, and foreign languages. Magnet schools provide parents and students with the option of choosing a school that matches a student s interests. They are designed to attract a variety of students and sometimes enroll students from different districts. Magnet schools offer students specialized programs and create innovative learning approaches in a diverse environment. More than 380,000 students participated in over 365 magnet schools or magnet programs in 37 Florida school districts during the school year. Career and Professional Academies Career and Professional Academies are small, personalized learning communities within a high school that select a subset of students and teachers for a two-, three-, or four-year span. Students enter a career and professional academy through a voluntary process. They must apply and be accepted with parental knowledge and support. A career and professional academy includes the following essential elements: A small learning community A rigorous academic curriculum with a career theme Partnerships with employers, the community, and higher education By design, these three central elements of a career and professional academy lead to a school that is rigorous, relevant, and relational. Academies draw on the students interest in learning about some feature of the world of work, and integrate careerspecific curriculum and instruction into core academic curriculum. Over 240 career and professional academies operate in 38 Florida school districts with a focus on areas including hospitality and tourism, health science, science and technology, information technology, and architecture and construction. [8] Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options

13 Dual Enrollment Dual enrollment allows eligible high school students to enroll in postsecondary courses. They earn credit toward high school graduation and at the same time earn credit toward a college degree or technical certificate. All 28 Florida College System institutions and some state universities in Florida participate in dual enrollment. Students are permitted to take dual enrollment courses on a part-time basis during school hours, after school, or during the summer term. Dual enrollment students do not have to pay registration, matriculation, or laboratory fees. Advanced Placement (AP) Program The College Board s Advanced Placement (AP) Program is a nationwide program consisting of more than 30 rigorous high school courses and nationally standardized exams that allow students an opportunity to earn college credit. Subjects range from art to statistics. Students who earn a qualifying grade of 3 or above on an AP exam can earn college credit or advanced placement or both, depending on the college or university. Students in Florida s public secondary schools enrolled in AP courses do not have to pay to take the exams. The number of AP exam-takers in Florida s public schools increased 19.6% from , as compared to a 9.5% increase in AP exam-takers in public schools nationwide. The number of AP grades 3 or higher received by Florida s public school AP exam-takers increased 14.5%, as compared to an 8.3% increase in the number of AP grades 3 or higher received by public school students nationwide. Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Program The Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Program is an international curriculum and examination program modeled on the British precollege curriculum and A-Level exams. Florida s public colleges and universities provide college credit for successfully passed exams. Students in Florida s public secondary schools enrolled in AICE courses do not have to pay to take the exams. International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program is a rigorous pre-university course of study leading to internationally standardized tests. The program s comprehensive two-year curriculum allows its graduates to fulfill requirements of many different nations education systems. Students completing IB courses and exams may be eligible for college credit. The award of credit is based on scores achieved on IB exams. Students can earn up to 30 postsecondary semester credits by participating in this program at the high school level. Approximately 40 Florida high schools participate in the IB program. Students in Florida s public secondary schools enrolled in IB courses do not have to pay to take the exams. Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options [9]

14 Parents whose children are enrolled in Title I schools that are identified as schools in need of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring have the opportunity to transfer their children to a higher-performing public school. If they do so, the local school district must provide transportation. NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND SCHOOL CHOICE The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 is designed to ensure that children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education. The legislation provides federal resources for students to reach proficiency levels on challenging state academic standards and assessments. Under NCLB, when schools do not meet state targets for improving the achievement of all students, parents are provided options for meeting their child s learning needs. Parents of students enrolled in schools in need of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring may also have the opportunity for their children to receive supplemental educational services (SES). These services include tutoring and other academic enrichment services provided outside the regular school day and are designed to enable children from low-income families to reach academic proficiency. SES tutoring offers eligible students the opportunity to participate in high-quality research-based educational programs in subject areas such as reading, language arts, and mathematics. Eligible families choose an SES provider from a state-approved list, and school districts pay for the tutoring services using federal funds. Public school choice is a critical component of NCLB that can provide students in low-performing Title I schools with the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education. When students are provided quality educational options, and when parents receive information to make informed choices among those options, public school choice can increase both equity and quality in education , , , , , ,801 Public School Choice with Transportation and Supplemental Educational Services Title I Schools Public School Choice with Transportation Supplemental Educational Services Approximately 900 Title I schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two years and were required to offer parents public school choice with transportation. Approximately 300 Title I schools did not make AYP for two years and were required to offer parents public school choice with transportation. 1,001 Title I schools did not make AYP for two or more years and were required to offer parents public school choice with transportation. Approximately 990 Title I schools did not make AYP for two years and were required to offer parents public school choice with transportation. Approximately 921 Title I schools did not make AYP for three years and were required to offer parents public school choice with transportation. Approximately 997 Title I schools did not make AYP for three years and were required to offer parents public school choice with transportation. [10] Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options 33 Title I schools did not make AYP for three years and were required to offer SES. Approximately 700 Title I schools did not make AYP for three or more consecutive years and were required to offer SES. 872 Title I schools did not make AYP for three or more consecutive years and were required to offer SES. School districts reported that approximately 70,000 students participated in SES. 892 Title I schools did not make AYP for three or more consecutive years and were required to offer SES. School district reported that approximately 70,000 students participated in SES Title I schools did not make AYP for two or more consecutive years and were required to offer SES. School district reported that approximately 77,000 students participated in SES Title I schools did not make AYP for two or more consecutive years and were required to offer SES. School district reported that approximately 72,241 students participated in SES.

15 McKay Scholarship Program Student Participation 15,910 17,300 13,739 18,273 19,852 20,530 20,926 9, , Race/Ethnicity of McKay Scholarship Students SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMS Florida s variety of school choice options includes scholarship programs, giving parents choices so that their children are offered the best opportunities to learn. Florida s three scholarship programs allow parents unprecedented choice among public and private schools. During the school year, more than 51,000 students participated in a scholarship program. John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program The John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, commonly known as the McKay Scholarship Program, offers parents of students with disabilities the opportunity to make informed choices about the best academic environment for their children. Eligible students include students with disabilities who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP), and who were enrolled and reported for funding by a Florida school district the year prior to applying for a scholarship. Students in military families from other states or countries may also be eligible. Parents have the option of choosing another public school or applying for a scholarship for their child to attend an eligible private school. Forty-seven percent of all students who participated in the McKay Scholarship Program in were white. African-American students represented the second largest student group with 29% participation, followed by Hispanic students with 20% participation. 29% 20% 5% 47% White Grade Level Distribution of McKay Scholarship Students African American Hispanic Other Grade Students Percent K % 1st % 2nd % 3rd 1, % 4th 1, % 5th 1, % 6th 2, % 7th 2, % 8th 2, % 9th 2, % 10th 1, % 11th 1, % 12th 1, % Total 20, % Of students receiving McKay Scholarships in , 32% were enrolled in kindergarten through grade five, 34% in grades six through eight, and 34% in grades nine through twelve. Slightly over two-thirds (69%) of the McKay Scholarship students were male. Fortyfour percent were eligible for the federal Free and Reduced-price Lunch Program, an indicator that their families have limited financial resources. Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options [11]

16 McKay Scholarship Student Eligibility for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch 46% 4% 8% 36% The McKay Scholarship Program offers parent-directed choices and student-directed funding. During the school year, the most recent complete year of funding, $138.7 million was paid to scholarship program participants. Scholarships for individual students enrolled during the school year ranged from $4,746 to $19,133, with an average scholarship amount of $7,144. In , 20,926 students from 959 private schools participated in the McKay Scholarship Program. Private schools participating in the program must document compliance with eligibility requirements specified in law % Free Lunch Reduced Lunch Did Not Apply Not Eligible Not Reported Private School Participation in the McKay Scholarship Program Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, formerly the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program, was established in 2001 to encourage private, voluntary contributions from corporate donors to non-profit scholarship funding organizations (SFO) that award scholarships to children from low-income families. Beginning with the school year, the program expanded to include credits against the insurance premium tax for contributions to eligible non-profit SFOs, and has since been expanded to include credits against severance taxes on oil and gas production, selfaccrued sales tax liabilities of direct pay permit holders, and alcoholic beverage taxes on beer, wine, and spirits. The maximum amount the state may award is $140 million in credits for the fiscal year. This program expands educational opportunities and school choice for children of families that have limited financial resources. Parents may choose an eligible private school or a public school in an adjacent district. 15,585 Student Participation in Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program 11,550 10, , , , ,871 28, Scholarships of $106 million were awarded to a total of 28,927 students enrolled in 1,033 participating Florida private schools during the school year. Participation in reflected an enrollment increase of over eight percent from the school year. Approximately 37% of students who participated in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program in were African American. Hispanic students comprised the next largest population with 25% participation, followed closely by the white population with about 24% participation. [12] Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options

17 Race/Ethnicity of Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Students 14% 24% White 25% African American Hispanic Other 37% In order to be eligible for a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, a student must be eligible for free or reduced-price lunches or be on the direct certification list and have either attended a public school the previous year, received a scholarship the previous year, be entering kindergarten or first grade, or be placed in foster care. Scholarship Funding Organizations and Private Partners Scholarship Funding Organizations (SFOs) are responsible for the receipt and distribution of funds to eligible and participating private schools in Florida. In , the scholarships to attend an eligible private school are worth $4,106 for private school tuition and fees. Scholarships to attend a public school in an adjacent district are worth $500 per student for transportation. Currently for the school year, four SFOs are participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Opportunity Scholarship Program Public School Option The Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) created under Florida s A+ Education Plan reflects the state s commitment to higher educational standards for students. The Opportunity Scholarship Program allows parents to choose a higher-performing public school if their children attend, or are assigned to attend, a failing Florida public school. For the purpose of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school is considered to be failing if it has received two F grades within four consecutive school years. In the year in which the school receives a second F, eligible students can take advantage of the options under this program. Historically, the public school option of the Opportunity Scholarship Program has been administered at the school district level. Since the school year, school districts have reported the number of students in their districts participating in the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Of the 1,431 students who participated in the public option of the Opportunity Scholarship Program for the school year, 94% were enrolled in grades Opportunity Scholarship Program Public School Option Student Participation 1,688 1,319 1,304 1,280 1, Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options [13]

18 PRIVATE SCHOOLS More than 313,200 students were enrolled in 2,089 private schools in Florida during the school year. This represents approximately 11% of the state s total student enrollment in Prekindergarten programs through grade 12. PK-12 School Enrollment, % 11% Private Schools Public Schools Each private school has a stated purpose and philosophy unique to that school. Some private schools place an emphasis on college preparation, some are vocational, and others seek to meet the needs of children with particular learning styles. These schools operate with limited regulation by the state, but Florida law does require private schools to meet certain standards in regards to health, safety, and sanitation. Each private school is required by Florida law to complete an annual survey that is maintained by the Department of Education as an information database for the public, governmental agencies, and other interested parties. The state is not required to verify the accuracy of the information submitted, and inclusion in the database does not imply state accreditation or approval. The Department of Education and the state s private school organizations work together in serving Florida s diverse student population; the relationship is professional, rather than regulatory. HOME EDUCATION Florida is a long-time supporter of home education, and the number of families choosing this education option shows steady growth. Established as an educational choice by the Florida Legislature in 1985, home education programs give parents the freedom to nurture their child s individual learning style, creativity and intellect and allows students the opportunity to learn and explore at their own pace, in any location or at any time of the day. More than 62,500 students in 42,750 Florida families, representing every school district and county, were registered in home education programs in the school year. Florida law does not require a particular educational background for parents or standard curricula for home-educated students. Parents home educating their children are able to customize the curriculum to the needs of each child. However, a portfolio of activities, records and materials showing student work must be maintained for two years and made available to the school district if requested in writing. There is no attendance requirement for home education students, as the learning environment is not restricted to a regular classroom setting. The law allows parents 44,460 Growth in Home Education Programs 47,151 52,613 56,650 62,567 37, [14] Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options

19 the flexibility to choose from five annual evaluation methods, enabling them to select the best measure of learning for each student. Parents register a home education program with their school district, providing the names, addresses and birthdates of all children who are enrolled in a home education program. Home education students may participate in dual enrollment and are eligible for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships. Children of all ages are home educated across the state, and some enter college straight from their courses of study at home. CONCLUSION School Choice is not about one type of school or system being better than another. It is about providing unique flexibility for parents and students, and giving families greater choice in educational opportunities. Diversity in school structure and programs is crucial to Florida s goal of bringing all students to high levels of academic achievement. Constructive competition and greater accountability provide an incentive for all schools to improve. Parents and students will come out winners every time. School Choice Benefits for Families and Students Promotes increased student achievement Increases parental involvement Promotes school improvement through constructive competition Provides greater accountability within the school system Improving K-12 Educational Choice Options [15]

20 Florida Department of Education Eric J. Smith, Commissioner Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice 325 West Gaines Street, Suite 522 Tallahassee, FL / / Toll-Free Hotline

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