Putting Education Reform To The Test

Private School Scholarships Could Come With New State Testing Requirement

Senate President Don Gaetz wants to requires students receiving tax credit scholarships to take state standardized tests.

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Senate President Don Gaetz wants to requires students receiving tax credit scholarships to take state standardized tests.

The debate over whether to require students using one of the state’s private school scholarship programs take state standardized tests is flaring up again.

Florida lawmakers want to expand the state’s private school scholarship program for low-income students funded with tax credits. But Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, thinks the scholarships should also come with the requirement that those schools administer the same statewide test as Florida’s public schools, as the Orlando Sentinel reported last week.

Gov. Rick Scott once said he supported the idea and the pro-school choice Fordham Institute also supports some use of state standardized tests. But Florida schools which accept McKay scholarships for students with disabilities have opposed the idea.

The issue is important as Florida chooses a new statewide test tied to Common Core language arts and math standards to replace the FCAT. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is expected to recommend a new test next month.

Requiring McKay or tax credit scholarship students to take the state’s next standardized test would likely force schools accepting the scholarships to adopt some or all of the controversial standards. Private schools and parents who home school have already expressed concerns that college aptitude exams such as the SAT and ACT were aligning themselves to Common Core.

Critics of the private school programs argue the schools should have to administer the same exam as Florida public schools — and face the same sanctions for poor-performance — if they want to accept the scholarships.

Nearly 60,000 students receive tax credit scholarships, according to the most recent quarterly report, while more than 26,000 students received a McKay scholarship during the most recently completed school year.

Students in Florida’s private school scholarship programs are required to take a national norm-referenced standardized test. Many schools use the Stanford Achievement Test, which some public school districts also use to cross-check FCAT results. You can find the annual reports looking at performance of students in the tax credit scholarship program here.

For more background on the tax credit scholarship, click here.


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