By: Lauren Winslow

The availability of school options in a given location significantly influences home purchases. In 2021, approximately 13% of all homebuyers in Florida reported that the quality of the school district was a factor in choosing the location of their future home

The passing of House Bill 1 (HB-1) expanded school choice to all students in Florida beginning in the 2023-24 school year. This bill allows students to have more freedom to choose their school as enrollment limits based on home location dissipate. The bill also introduces school vouchers, dispersed on a tiered priority system based on family income, prioritizing low-income students first. Voucher amounts are based on the funding a traditional public school would receive, projected to be an average of $8,700 per student. All students now have access to expanded voucher options, enabling them to transition from traditional public schools to charter schools if they so choose.

With HB-1, parents have more freedom to select the school that fits their child’s needs the best, one of the options being charter schools. Charter schools are independently run and publicly funded with a less restrictive curriculum aimed at an adaptive form of education. 

Charter schools are a competitive option in terms of enhancing academic performance for a growing number of Florida’s youth, with their popularity on the rise as evidenced by enrollment doubling over the last decade. With their curriculum, students across all school levels perform, on average, higher in mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts.

Science, technologies, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs in K-12 charter schools earn higher achievement scores than non-charter school students. This could indicate future career success since STEM fields are projected to grow 15% from 2021 to 2031. As demand for STEM students rises, K-12 education should respond by placing extra effort into science and mathematics achievement among their students. 

Florida charter schools saw approximately 1% more elementary students receive passing grades in science compared to their non-charter public school peers. Middle school charter students boasted approximately 5% more students receiving a passing grade in science, and charter senior high schools had a 3% advantage in science over non-charter public school students (see Figures 1 and Figure 2).

Achievement in mathematics is another important STEM indicator. At the elementary school level, Florida charter students received a passing rate 3% higher than non-charter students. Charter school middle schoolers widened this gap with a 10-point differential in average achievement above non-charter school students. Charter senior high school students’ achievement shows an approximated 10-point difference between the average scores, 52.27. and 41.81 out of 100 respectively. 

STEM is working to broaden its reach to a more inclusive population. Charter schools serve diverse populations, where a higher average percentage of minority students are enrolled in charter elementary, middle, and senior high schools than in non-charter public schools. The largest minority population served by Florida charter schools during the 2021-2022 school year is students of Hispanic descent, which accounts for 45.1% of students in charter schools. STEM fields also call for more female representation, subsequently supported by charter schools, their population being 49.9% female compared to traditional public schools with a 48.7% female population. 

As STEM fields continue to grow, student achievement in Florida has to keep up with this demand. Charter school students are not only outperforming their non-charter school peers in K-12 STEM indicators (science and mathematics) but also at every subject and school level. 

As parents and students consider HB-1’s expansion of school choice, they should take into account the charter school curriculum and student performances, alongside other factors, when deciding if they should send their children to a charter or traditional school. 

Lauren Winslow is a researcher at the DeVoe L. Moore Center, pursuing her undergraduate degree in Statistics with a minor in Mathematics. Working on the Data Analytics Group, Winslow tracked the key difference in STEM indicators, as outlined in the above blog.

Leave a Reply