STANCE ON FCAT
April 9, 2003
by Nicole White
TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush, who has made the tough Florida Comprehensive
Assessment Test the backbone of his education reform, now says he is willing to
consider alternatives to help some students who fail the test to graduate from
Bush softened his stance after a meeting with several members of Florida's
Puerto Rican community, who visited the Capitol on Tuesday.
Strategists say the hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans who live in the state
will be key in the 2004 election as the governor's brother,
President Bush, seeks reelection.
''We are considering it. We're first of all trying to define what the universe
is. . . . The question is how many people would be impacted by
that,'' Bush said.
Still, the governor cautioned that he was ''concerned about lowering standards
or making accommodations to the point where de facto standards are
nonexistent.'' ''But on the other hand,'' he said, ``we want to make sure that
we're not missing some opportunity of a really bright kid who comes in 11th
grade or 12th grade from another country where English is not spoken and they
show they have the skills to graduate.''
A bill sponsored by Rep. John Quiñones, a Republican freshman legislator from
the Orlando area, would allow the state Board of Education to use a 2.5
grade-point average or ACT or SAT scores to issue a high school diploma to
students who are enrolled in English as a Second Language programs and who do
not pass the FCAT.
Quiñones said he is encouraged that the governor is at least willing to consider
''I think the governor is beginning to see that this is a positive bill, a bill
that will make sure that no child is left behind,'' Quiñones said.
Quiñones' proposal has the support of several Hispanic lawmakers who worry that
thousands of students will not receive a diploma this year. In South Florida
alone, more than 6,000 high school seniors are expected to fail the FCAT this
year. This is the first year seniors must pass the test to receive a diploma.
A similar measure sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami,
would make the alternatives to the FCAT available to any
student who fails the test.