Florida Scholarship Program at Center Of Racial Bias Probe

Florida Scholarship Program at Center Of Racial Bias Probe

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.
Civil rights and education advocacy groups from Florida and around the nation are calling on state leaders to address “racial bias” in the formula used to award Bright Futures scholarships.
A letter delivered last month to top state officials charges that “rigid test score cut-offs” on the SAT and ACT result in, “(d)is proportionately few African American and Latino high school graduates” winning a Bright Futures scholarship for the 1999-2000 school year. Bright Futures Academic Scholars receive free tuition at any Florida public university while the program’s Merit Scholarships cover three-quarters of tuition. Equivalent funding is available for students attending private universities.
To qualify for the top scholarships, students must score at least 1270 on the SAT or 28 on the ACT. African American students received only 3 percent of all Academic Scholars awards even though they constituted more than 14 percent of all test-takers. Latinos, who made up almost 14 percent of test-takers, won less than 9 percent of the full tuition scholarships. More than three-quarters of the Academic Scholars awards went to the 53 percent of test-takers who were White. For the Merit Scholarships, with cut-off scores of 920 on the SAT and 20 on the ACT, 8 percent of winners were African American, 12 percent were Latinos, and 72 percent were White.
The letter, initiated by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) based in Cambridge, Mass., was signed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), Florida State Conference of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Branches, Pinellas County Urban League, Jacksonville Urban League, ASPIRA Florida and the Florida School Counselor Association.
The groups say the Bright Futures award formula violates the guidelines of the SAT’s sponsor, the College Board, which state, “The following are examples of test uses that should be avoided . . . Using minimum test scores without proper validation on the basis of students’ performance within the institution, and if appropriate by specific programs or by student subgroups.”
“Reliance on SAT and ACT score cut-offs to determine eligibility is a major reason why this unfair disparity occurs,” says Christina Perez, a university admissions testing reform advocate for FairTest. “Instead of misusing test scores, the state should use alternative criteria such as teacher recommendations, school activities and honors, work experience and community service to select award winners.”
The groups’ letter has been delivered to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Education Commissioner Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bob Butterworth, members of the Florida Board of Education, state legislative leaders, and
members of the Senate Education Committee and House Committee on Colleges and
Universities. 



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