Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Board of Education have imposed testing expectations on schools, and a couple of emails I’ve received demonstrates that the regulations are discriminatory toward private schools.  I don’t know if this is intentional or by design, but it must be addressed.

These emails were made public by the Project Sunburst program that Governor Scott’s administration uses to publish emails received by constituents in the public domain.

The firs email is from Dr. Dennis Robinson who is the President of the Florida League of Christian Schools and the Headmaster of Trinity Christian Academy in Deltona, FL.  He expressed concern that some of his students who were transferring to the Volusia County Schools and Polk County Public Schools were not having their credits in Algebra and Biology transfer.

I am writing you today very concerned about the current interpretation of the statute mandating end of course assessments in various subjects, and specifically how that is being interpreted by districts to apply to private schools.  We are being told by various counties (Volusia and Polk to name two) that there is basically no way that an algebra credit from a private school can be transferred to a public school since that student was not given an approved EOC assessment.  We are also being told that there is no approved assessment that a student can take in a private school to meet this requirement; we can’t create one, the Stanford Achievement Test won’t work, a CLEP test for college Algebra isn’t good enough, not an AP exam nor successful completion of the state approved FLVS program, not even the subject level test for the college board.  We have also been told that our students cannot voluntarily take the EOC in their district.

Governor Scott, we are accredited by the same organization as the public schools (SACS-CASI) and we meet the same standards.  How is this program fair to our students?   Thank you for your attention and I await your response.

He received a second email from the same school.  This time from Darlene Hellender, the school’s Director of Student Affairs.

Dear Governor Scott,

I am an administrator in a  SACS accredited private school.  Recently, laws have been passed requiring End of Course (EOC) assessments for classes such as Algebra I and Biology.  I have been informed that students leaving our school will be denied credit for these classes because the EOC is not available to them, nor is there an alternative test that can be taken.  This seems unfair to me since our students’ families pay their taxes as much as public school students.  What’s more, these families bear the cost of education that our government would have had to carry.   Private school students should not be penalized for choosing to go to Florida’s private schools.  Again, I have been informed by Volusia County Director of Assessments that our students who have received credit for these classes on their transcripts, will not be given credit in a Florida public school if they should transfer.  Also, we could not give an EOC ourselves because it would not be a state standardized test.  What are we to do?

On another front, given the current failure rate of Florida students on these tests, it seems short sighted to not have an alternative plan for these students. Our public school system will be burdened with students repeating classes and Florida’s drop-out rate will increase.  There are many students who are poor test takers, but excellent students.  I have seen these students flourish in college, but now, these same students would probably not have a chance to graduate in order to go to college.  How does this benefit our state?

I would appreciate an answer to this email.  Thank-you for your consideration in this matter.

In most states transferring credits from a private school, especially one that is accredited, to a public school was never a problem.  Apparently this is no longer the case in Florida with Algebra and Biology since the standardized end of course tests are not available to them and all alternative means of testing have been removed.

Grumpy Educators considers what the implications of this move may be:

Is this lapse a way to insert Florida’s controversial testing and accountability system into private schools and exert control over religious schools? Will the standardized end-of-course requirement ultimately be required of all schools, public and private? Does the requirement apply to homeschoolers who transfer back to public school?

The mess caused by the testing culture in Florida must be remedied.  Florida’s families should not be penalized because they choose to have their students attend private school.

Cross-posted at Truth in American Education

Update: The Governor’s office responds.

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