Home education students in Florida are eligible to apply for Bright Futures Scholarships. It is one of the ways that parents can recoup some of the taxes they pay to support public education, but students need to be prepared to meet the requirements and understand the options.
The depressed economy, coupled with the low bar set for eligibility, forced the 2010 Florida Legislature to make changes to the Bright Futures program. The most important change was to gradually increase the required test scores beginning in the 2011-12 school year. The Academic Scholars Award scores will increase to 1280 SAT, 28 ACT in 2012-13; and 1290 SAT, 29 ACT in 2013-14. The Medallion Scholarship scores will increase for public and private school students and home education students who choose to document their coursework in a Florida public or private school. The Medallion required test scores will be 980 SAT, 21 ACT in 2011- 12; 1020 SAT, 22 ACT in 2012-13; and 1050 SAT, 23 ACT in 2013- 14. The scores for home education students whose parents do not choose to document their coursework will increase from 1070 to 1100 SAT (24 ACT) in 2013-14.
There are several things parents can do to begin preparing students for these changes:
• It is never too early to begin preparing your student.
• The SAT and ACT are based on the foundations of reading, writing and arithmetic, and years of a solid foundation in these areas is your ticket to a successful test score.
• A good understanding of pre-algebra lays the foundation for Algebra 1 and geometry, both of which are necessary for SAT preparation.
• Grammar, writing skills and reading comprehension are essential.
• Don’t wait until the senior year to take the test. Students can take the test numerous times, so begin taking the SAT and/or ACT in the spring of the 10th grade. Early testing will help students identify their strengths and weaknesses, allowing time to concentrate on areas needing improvement.
• Having a solid foundation in place early allows your student the time and opportunity to practice, practice and practice. Scores have been raised over 200 points when students have taken the time to practice the tests and retake them.
• Use the Official SAT Prep Book and practice tests to prepare the student for the way the questions are asked and the form the writing must follow.
• Contact your homeschool group leader and other homeschool families to obtain references for outside tutors and rep courses that help students learn test taking skills.
Home education students have two ways to qualify for a Bright Futures Medallion Scholarship. One is with a higher test score and no documentation of the required courses and the other is to document the specific courses required and the GPA through courses taken at a Florida public or private school, which would include Florida Virtual School (www.flvs.net) and dual enrollment in the Florida College System (community colleges). Consider the second option if the student does not test well but does well in regular schoolwork.
Changes were also made to the number of years after graduation a student has available to use a Bright Futures Scholarship, as well as to the reinstatement requirements if the student loses his scholarship. You may read about the other changes and the award amounts at www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/SSFAD/bf/awardamt.htm.
Written by: Brenda Dickinson, Home Education Foundation
As president of HEF, Brenda lobbies full time in Tallahassee on behalf of homeschoolers. For more information, including how to help support HEF, visit www.flhef.org.