Sometimes Florida Voucher School Gain Scores Are, Uh, Negative…
One of the individuals present at Donald Trump’s address of Congress on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, was Denisha Merriweather, a graduate student who years earlier received a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (i.e., voucher) that was delivered by the nonprofit administrator, Step Up for Students. (Merriweather also later worked for Step Up for Students as part of a growing career in advocating for vouchers.)
On March 03, 2017, following her visit with Trump to St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida, DeVos issued this statement, which includes the following excerpt regarding Merriweather:
Denisha Merriweather, who was able to attend a private school when her public school did not meet her needs, exemplifies the hope and positive impact of school choice, and her story should serve as a model for the nation.
I featured the above information in a March 06, 2017, post on Merriweather’s circumstances. In short, she acknowledged that instability in her home life had her changing public schools “constantly.” When she changed caregivers, her living situation stabilized so that she was able to stop constantly changing schools. Her new caregiver used a tax credit administered by Step Up for Students to allow Merriweather to attend a Florida private school, Esprit de Corps Learning Center.
A tax credit is a way for corporations and wealthy individuals to give money directly to a voucher-providing nonprofit and in turn receive tax breaks. Such programs cleverly reduce a state’s tax revenue via the promise of post-donation tax credits. Thus, the private-school-funding tax credit is a back-door voucher program, useful in states in which spending public money on private schools is declared unconstitutional, as it was in Florida by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006.
Just as DeVos sells Merriweather’s voucher usage as a private-school-over-public-school success, the nonprofit Step Up for Students also includes a success narrative on its tax forms, which I included and reviewed in this March 10, 2017, post.
Step Up for Students purportedly demonstrates the success of its back-door voucher program via its gain scores (e.g., national percentile rank changes from one school year to the next). From the Step Up 2015 tax form:
Standardized test scores released in August 2014 showed that scholarship students were achieving the same gains in reading and math as students of all income levels nationally. By law, scholarship recipients every year must take a nationally recognized norm-referenced test approved by the state, and most take the well-regarded Stanford Achievement Test. The results reportedSometimes Florida Voucher School Gain Scores Are, Uh, Negative… | deutsch29: