Florida Catholic schools are embracing Common Core academic standards and seriously considering whether to take the coming state tests aligned to them. In the meantime, their leaders say, 30 to 40 Catholic schools want to administer the FCAT in 2014, in what would be a trial run for potential transition to Common Core testing.
“Our mission is the same, public or Catholic school, to create productive citizens in our world that actually have the skills in life they need,” Alberto Vazquez-Matos, schools superintendent for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, told redefinED. “We’ll all be raising the standards and talking the same academic language.”
The push by Catholic schools towards common standards – and perhaps common tests – is an interesting counterpoint to the debate that followed last week’s comments by Gov. Rick Scott. Scott re-opened the door to a long-running conversation about voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs by saying he wants to see students in those programs take the same tests as their public school peers.
Right now, the state does not require tax credit scholarship students to take the FCAT, but they are mandated to take another comparable, state-approved test such as the Stanford Achievement Test or Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Disabled students who use McKay vouchers to attend private schools are not required by the state to take any such tests.
This year, Catholic schools in Florida enroll 7,673 tax credit scholarship students. (The scholarship program is administered by Step Up for Students, which co-hosts this blog.)
Scott’s comments sparked suggestions from some school choice critics that private schools were dodging comparisons to public schools. But Florida’s Catholic schools have been quietly moving towards Common Core for more than year. In fact, all 237 Catholic schools in Florida will be rolling out a “blended’’ version of the language arts standards, right along with public schools, in 2014.