Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Florida private schools that take public money are passing on the FCAT. Where is the accountability?
From the Tampa Times by Jeff Solochek
In the 2012 legislative session, Florida lawmakers paved the way for private schools that accept corporate tax credit scholarship vouchers to have their students take the FCAT, a step closer to joining the state's public school accountability system.
Now the deadline is coming to register those schools for the 2013-14 FCAT administration. And we can't help but wonder which, if any, private schools will take up the offer.
Interim commissioner Pam Stewart this week sent out information alerting school districts that some schools might be applying, and it's not too early to begin thinking about implementation. She also noted that not every private school that wants to participate necessarily will get to do so.
"The applications will be reviewed and initially approved or rejected as they are submitted," she wrote. "The number of private schools that will be selected is based on the difference between the number of participating public schools and the contractual cap for the 2013–14 school year."
The interesting thing about this new law is that many Democrats who said they supported the vouchers for poor children opposed this idea because they didn't want to expand the FCAT or other types of high stakes testing — even as some wanted more assurances that the voucher receiving schools are performing up to snuff. At the same time, bill sponsor Rep. Richard Corcoran refused to require private schools to offer the FCAT to receive the voucher money, noting that the backlash to such state intervention could be harsh.
In many ways, it became a bill that people wanted and didn't want at the same time, scaled back to the point where it's more a suggestion than anything else. Still, it's an interesting discussion: Should the private schools receiving voucher money offer the FCAT to demonstrate how they compare to the public schools that also get public funding? Do you think any of them will?