Students Use Vouchers to Leave School With ‘F’ Grade

May 24, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

See Also

Inside one of Florida’s lowest-rated public schools, classes once were too large, teenagers ruled the hallways, and some teachers didn’t give a lick.

That was the view of some students of Miami Edison Senior High School, a school that has performed so poorly on state tests in recent years that students can use Florida’s Opportunity Scholarships to leave and enroll in private schools if they prefer.

But the new leaders of this urban campus say just about everything at the school has changed.

Barbara Mallard, the principal of Miami Edison Senior High School, and Jean Coty Ridore, left, the vice principal, review preliminary data from state test scores.

They even hope that Edison’s report card grade—three consecutive F’s, making its students eligible for the state tuition vouchers—also will improve when the state releases new grades in June.

First-year Principal Barbara Mallard says students had a right to be disgusted with the way things were. She estimates upwards of 200 students have been opting out of Miami Edison for private schools each year since students at the school became eligible for vouchers in 2002. Others may be transferring to other public schools, and some may be leaving school altogether.

“I can relate, and understand what those kids were saying,” Ms. Mallard said during a recent interview at the school. “What we saw [two years ago], we were appalled, to be perfectly honest with you.”

Ms. Mallard, a native New Yorker who doesn’t mince words, has tried to clean up the campus and sought to replace much of the faculty. She was brought in from elsewhere in the Miami-Dade district as the school’s vice principal two years ago as part of a new leadership team.

One-fifth of the school’s 109 teachers were new this year.

Roughly 90 percent of Edison’s students are Haitian or have parents who are. Almost every student comes from an economically modest background.

On the Rise

The school, built of stucco and painted white with bright red stripes, feels cold inside, with few windows in the corridors. Many of the inside walls could use fresh paint. “And it’s a hundred percent better than when I walked in,” Ms. Mallard said.

She said that students in the past complained of large classes for good reason. Edison now enrolls 1,300 students in grades 9-12, down from 2,400 in recent years.

Students say the improvements are clear.

“I came here to skip,” confessed 11th grader Orville Aiken of his early days at the school. “The atmosphere was different.” But he praised Ms. Mallard. “She’s a good principal,” he said. “She listens. She doesn’t take sides.”

“We have better teachers now,” said 10th grader Talisha Marcellus.

Eleventh grader Trillion Ingram added that when he first came to Edison, “there were a lot of kids [in the hallways], a lot of drugs going around the school a lot. There used to be graffiti all over, everywhere.”

To help Edison rise, the school receives extra staff training as part of a Miami-Dade County school improvement zone, a program begun by Superintendent Rudolph F. Crew, who became the leader of the 355,000-student district in 2004.

The school has added more social workers to work with immigrant families. Students attend class for an extra period each day, and some take intensive reading classes.

Even if the school’s grade improves when the results come out next month, students here will remain eligible for Opportunity Scholarships for another year—unless the state supreme court rules the program unconstitutional.

Ms. Mallard does not believe the threat of vouchers forced Edison to improve. She doesn’t like the state’s letter grades for schools, either. “There’s got to be a better way to say it,” she said.

Still, she added, “I won’t feel OK until we’re minimally a C.”


School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Accountability Opinion What’s Wrong With Online Credit Recovery? This Teacher Will Tell You
The “whatever it takes” approach to increasing graduation rates ends up deflating the value of a diploma.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Accountability Why a Judge Stopped Texas from Issuing A-F School Ratings
Districts argued the new metric would make it appear as if schools have worsened—even though outcomes have actually improved in many cases.
2 min read
Laura BakerEducation Week via Canva  (1)
Accountability Why These Districts Are Suing to Stop Release of A-F School Ratings
A change in how schools will be graded has prompted legal action from about a dozen school districts in Texas.
4 min read
Handwritten red letter grades cover a blue illustration of a classic brick school building.
Laura Baker, Canva
Accountability What the Research Says What Should Schools Do to Build on 20 Years of NCLB Data?
The education law yielded a cornucopia of student information, but not scalable turnaround for schools, an analysis finds.
3 min read
Photo of magnifying glass and charts.
iStock / Getty Images Plus