Nothing works to destroy self-esteem quite like telling a black child he will be held to a far lower standard than whites, Asians, or Hispanics. Recognition that poverty plays a role in lower test scores is one thing; codifying that difference by telling students that you are expected to underachieve compared to other children is tantamount to surrender. The problem is too large and too complex to solve so we will hide our failure by simply dumbing down the standards by which we judge our own progress.

Reading “at or above grade level” is hardly challenging students to rise above their own environmental obstacles, but is probably a good first step. So why not challenge all to achieve a standard that doesn’t take race into account? And if you’re going to establish different standards, wouldn’t it make more sense to base them on income level rather than race?

Common sense obviously escapes the Florida education bureaucrats. No doubt we will see similar programs in the other states granted a No Child Left Behind waiver as schools seek the path of least resistance to meeting federal standards.