(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
So despite the odd note of protest here and there, Florida’s McKay Scholarship program continued to march across the country this year with the birth of twin offspring programs in Oklahoma and Louisiana. There are many reasons for this progress, including information like this:
For those of you squinting at your IPAD (I wish I was as cool as you, by the way) the pretty chart that I can’t get the blog to make bigger shows the reading scores for Florida and the National average on NAEP for public school children with disabilities. Back in 1998, both Florida and the nation had only 24% of children with disabilities reading at Basic or Better. In the most recent 2009 test, the national average had improved to 34%, but the Florida average had improved to 45%. That means that a child with a disability is approximately 26% more likely to be reading by 4th grade than the national average. It’s worth mentioning that the national figure would look a bit worse if it were possible to exclude the Florida numbers.
As I have mentioned before, Florida’s progress has multiple sources, but we do have evidence linking the program to improvement in scores for disabilities in public schools. McKay helped, and certainly didn’t hurt.
So now the fun part: who will be next?
Florida, Ohio, Utah, Georgia, Arizona, Oklahoma and Louisiana have jumped in with private choice programs for children with disabilities. The water is fine! There are a number of other reforms to special education that states should undertake, including universal screening, but none of these are mutually exclusive with the McKay approach. States need to focus like a laser on early literacy skills, remediate children who are behind, get the diagnosis correct, and give the maximum amount of choice to children with special needs.
My guess is that the next state or states will be in Big 10 country. Indiana, Wisconsin or Ohio with an expanded program (Ohio currently has a voucher program for children with Autism). Maybe all of the above.
Make your prediction now for 2011. Winner gets a coveted JPGB No Prize!