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Feds: Florida scholarship program does not violate anti-discrimination laws

Florida did not violate anti-discrimination laws by using standardized test scores to award Bright Futures scholarships, the U.S. Department of Education has found.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights had been investigating the Bright Futures program, which awards college scholarships based on grade point average and SAT or ACT scores. The probe was based on allegations that the eligibility criteria had the effect of discriminating against Hispanic and African-American students.

But federal authorities found “insufficient evidence of a legal violation” and concluded the investigation Wednesday, according to a memo addressed to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and obtained by the Herald/Times.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who opposed the probe, said he was glad federal authorities had ended the “baseless investigation.”

“The Bright Futures program has helped thousands of Florida’s top students finance their college educations and given them the foundation for successful careers,” Rubio said in a statement.

But Bob Schaeffer, a national testing expert who filed the original complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, was disappointed in the outcome.

“It is not surprising that the U.S. Department of Education — a national leader in promoting misuse and overuse of standardized exam results to assess students, teachers and schools — would decline to take action against Florida’s test-score based scholarships despite its own finding of the program’s ‘statistically significant’ negative impact on African Americans and Hispanics,” he said.

Read more here.

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