Should all Florida high schoolers have to take the SAT or ACT? Lawmakers say yes.

But some were concerned about those test scores becoming part of the way schools are graded.
[Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS]
[Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS] [ JOE RAEDLE | Getty Images/TNS ]
Published Feb. 4, 2020|Updated Feb. 4, 2020

TALLAHASSEE — A sweeping bill that would both change testing requirements for K-12 students as well as the processes for low-performing schools passed its first committee on Tuesday.

The bill contains several test eliminations, including the now-required 9th grade reading test and the end-of-course geometry test, though the latter would require approval from the federal Department of Education. Those changes were requested by Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran in the state’s proposed new standards intended to reduce high-stakes testing and get rid of Common Core.

But, also according to those recommendations, the bill would also require all 11th graders to take the SAT or ACT, and the state would cover the costs. Those standardized test scores would not affect students' graduation, but they would be incorporated into the school grading system.

That prompted concern from a few lawmakers in the House PreK-12 Innovation committee.

“I’m concerned that we are considering closing schools based on students’ performance on the SAT and ACT and particularly in low-income minority communities where studies have shown these standardized tests ... have cultural biases and student performance in the areas I’ve mentioned tend to be lower,” said Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando.

"I think it's an extremely important question," replied the bill's sponsor, Rep. Vance Aloupis, R-Miami. He noted that the definition of a "passing score" on those tests will be set by the state Board of Education, but promised to advocate for a number that considers "a number of variables."

The bill also makes significant changes to the way low-performing schools are brought into the "turnaround" process, during which they only have a set amount of time to improve to a "C" or be forced to close or be converted to a charter school. Instead of entering "turnaround" after two years with a "D" or "F" grades, this bill would only require one year.

Aloupis said he's aiming to inject more urgency for schools to improve for the sake of their students.

"What I want to find is the Goldilocks scenario, where we're giving districts enough support ... but not allowing schools to remain on the knife's edge going in and out of turnaround status," he said.

This bill also would implement Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request that all 12th graders take a civics test. It would not be a graduation requirement.