Accountability with a Kicker: Observations on the Florida A+ Accountability Plan

Research Report

Accountability with a Kicker: Observations on the Florida A+ Accountability Plan

Abstract

The A+ Accountability Plan implemented in Florida in 1999 anticipated many of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Notably, it contained similar attempts to invoke market forces by allowing students in failing schools to receive vouchers (a "kicker") for use at other public or private schools. Thus, Florida's school and district responses to the provisions of the A+ Plan may yield important insights into what we should expect to see elsewhere. We briefly describe publicly reported information on school performance in Florida since the inception of the A+ Plan, and then, using evidence from five school case studies, we provide a more nuanced picture of the program's effects--particularly the relationship between school accountability, grades, and the threat of vouchers. The schools chosen for our case studies straddle the extremes of the rating system (three had received A grades, and two received F grades), yet the A+ Plan appeared to significantly impact the instructional focus at each regardless. Nevertheless, it is difficult to distinguish the impact of the voucher threat from other parts of the A+ Accountability Plan. Notably, parents, teachers, and school officials report that the rating provisions exert much more social pressure, perhaps because few vouchers have been issued in Florida as of this writing. As a practical matter, however, the consequences of being labeled a failing (F) or voucher-eligible school appear to vary depending on unique conditions within each district. (Phi Delta Kappan 85(8): 598-605, April 2004.)

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