And as the [voucher] program expands statewide, it is important that the program and its schools be fully accountable for student achievement and for responsible use of the public dollar. That is why today the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will vote on a plan for academic and operations accountability for private schools running scholarship programs.
The proposed standards for academic accountability are simple and unbending. As with traditional and charter public school students, scholarship students take state tests. As in those schools, test results are reported publicly for each school.
Programs with 10 or more scholarship students per grade, or with 40 or more total students taking state tests, receive a performance score called a Scholarship Cohort Index (this, too, is similar to the public system, though no traditional elementary or high school in our state receives a score based on a number of students as small as 40).
A failing index score one year means the school will not take more scholarship students the following year, a more rigid standard than exists in the traditional system. And for scholarship schools, similar to the traditional and charter systems, after four years, if a school’s program has failed for the majority of that time, its participation is put on hold until the school demonstrates it’s back on track.
Perhaps most important, the proposal states that any participating school unable to demonstrate “basic academic competence” may be immediately declared ineligible to participate.
The business and operations rules proposed are equally strong. Among them are guidelines to ensure that schools grow their enrollments at a responsible pace, that tuitions likewise grow responsibly, and that schools use scholarship funds solely for the educational benefit of scholarship students.