How dare I, say you? Well, it isn’t me — it’s the Florida Board of Education which, in its convoluted manner of thinking, has established different standards of achievement that must be met based on race.
The Florida State Board of Education passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race.
On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post.
The plan has infuriated many community activists in Palm Beach County and across the state.
“To expect less from one demographic and more from another is just a little off-base,” Juan Lopez, magnet coordinator at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach, told the Palm Beach Post.
JFK Middle has a black student population of about 88 percent.
“Our kids, although they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they still have the ability to learn,” Lopez said. “To dumb down the expectations for one group, that seems a little unfair.”
Others in the community agreed with Lopez’s assessment. But the Florida Department of Education said the goals recognize that not every group is starting from the same point and are meant to be ambitious but realistic.
As an example, the percentage of white students scoring at or above grade level (as measured by whether they scored a 3 or higher on the reading FCAT) was 69 percent in 2011-2012, according to the state. For black students, it was 38 percent, and for Hispanics, it was 53 percent.
In addition, State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan said that setting goals for different subgroups was needed to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have from some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These waivers were used to make the states independent from some federal regulations.
This would be incomprehensible, except when you consider whom we are dealing with: education bureaucrats, whose sole reason for existence sometimes appears to be placing children, teachers, administrators, and athletic coaches into nice, neat little racially identifiable boxes, the better to study them like lab rats or control an outcomes-based testing regime.
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.