Putting Education Reform To The Test

Who’s Required To Take The FCAT?

Joe Raedle / Getty News Images

Gov. Rick Scott says students receiving private school tax credit scholarships should have the same requirements as public school students -- including standardized tests.

Gov. Rick Scott says students receiving tax credit scholarships to private schools should be subject to the same regulations as other public school students.

That would means taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or PARCC, the state’s next generation of standardized test which will replace FCAT.

But it’s important to note that not every public school student is required to take the FCAT.

There’s some disagreement about whether the FCAT is required. The Florida Department of Education told the Miami Herald participating in the test is required by law. Local districts agree:

A Broward County schools spokeswoman said parents cannot opt children out of state tests, including the FCAT. The Miami-Dade district had a similar take.

“The Florida Department of Education has advised us that students must be presented with the test materials and the opportunity to test [for] the full administration,” Miami-Dade schools spokesman John Schuster said. “If the student refuses to take the test, the answer document will be returned blank.”

But the law is silent on what happens if a parent or child opts out.

But activist in the “opt out” movement disagree, and have told us their children have suffered no consequences when deliberately staying home from school on testing days.

State law clearly allows students to use alternative assessments to the FCAT. Many third graders who did not score high enough on the FCAT reading test have used a portfolio of their work to avoid the state requirement they be retained.

The state law also allows students to use scores on the PSAT, SAT, ACT and other standardized tests as an alternative to FCAT scores.

School choice advocates have argued that just as parents and students believe traditional public schools aren’t right for every student, assessing every student with the same exam isn’t the right option either.

Students in the tax credit scholarship program are required to take one of a handful of nationally norm-referenced tests. Critics argue those tests don’t provide an apples-to-apples comparison to really assess how well private schools are doing compared to public schools.

As Florida transitions to new Common Core state standards and the PARCC exam, whether to require tax credit scholarship students take the exam will be a big issue.


About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »