By offering vouchers to students at failing schools, the Florida A-Plus choice and accountability system was intended to motivate those schools to improve their academic performance. Under this plan, each public school in Florida is assigned a grade, A through F, based on the proportion of its students passing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Students attending schools that receive two “F” grades in four years are eligible to receive vouchers that enable them to attend private schools or to transfer to another public school.
This report examines whether schools that faced the prospect of having vouchers offered to their students experienced larger improvements in their FCAT scores than other schools.
The results show that schools receiving a failing grade from the state in 1999 and whose students would have been offered tuition vouchers if they failed a second time achieved test score gains more than twice as large as those achieved by other schools. While schools with lower previous FCAT scores across all state-assigned grades improved their test scores, schools with failing grades that faced the prospect of vouchers exhibited especially large gains.
The report also establishes that the FCAT math and reading results are highly correlated with the results from a nationally recognized standardized test, the Stanford 9, which suggests that the FCAT is a reliable measure of student performance.
This report shows that the performance of students on academic tests improves when public schools are faced with the prospect that their students will receive vouchers. These results are particularly relevant because of the similarities between the Florida A-Plus choice and accountability system and the education initiatives proposed by President George W. Bush.