Editor’s note: Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill wrote the following letter, which was published this morning in the Tampa Bay Times. It’s in response to this Times editorial about testing for students in Florida’s tax credit scholarship program and recent comments from Gov. Rick Scott. Some recent news stories have also suggested that testing for scholarship students is limited or nonexistent.
Florida’s public education system is so rich with learning options that last year 1.3 million students chose something other than their assigned neighborhood school. So the debate about how best to hold these diverse programs accountable for student progress is important.
Unfortunately, the manner in which the Times questioned testing for one of those programs — a Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income students — was incomplete and misleading. While it is true scholarship students are not required to take the FCAT, that doesn’t mean the test most of them take annually, the Stanford Achievement, is irrelevant. This test is considered the gold standard in national exams, and has now been administered for six years with two consistent findings: 1) The students choosing the scholarship were the lowest performers in their district schools; and 2) They are achieving the same test gains in reading and math as students of all incomes nationally.
The expansion of options such as magnet programs, charter schools, virtual schools and scholarships for low-income children strengthens public education. These options all undergo rigorous academic evaluation, and the new national Common Core standards will hopefully make comparative evaluations even easier for parents and the public.