October 16 2012
Vicki E. Alger
Florida public school students are being challenged to improve their math and reading performance significantly over the next six years. But some students are being held to higher standards than others depending on their race. As the Orlando Sentinel reports:
The new targets approved by the State Board of Education…set loftier benchmarks for Asian and white youngsters and lower ones for black and Hispanic children. …By 2018, 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanic students, and 74 percent of black students are to be reading on grade level. …
Before their vote, some board members questioned the new targets, required under the waiver Florida sought from the federal No Child Left Behind law. "As a matter of philosophy … I think we should have the same goal for all categories of our citizenry," said board member John Padget. "Are we happy with the signal that this sends?"
Board member Roberto Martinez added, ""Should an Asian child and an Hispanic child be held to the same standard down the road? The answer is, yes."Similar race-based achievement targets sparked controversy in Virginia and Washington, D.C., this summer, with critics calling them a way to legalize low expectations for some students.
The U.S Department of Education required targets that would, within six years, cut in half the percentage of students in each "subgroup" performing poorly on reading and math tests, said Jane Fletcher, a deputy commissioner at Florida Department of Education.
Florida is an especially shocking case since it has been one of the few states to actually close achievement gaps. High standards for all students and expansive parental choice programs benefitting low-income and minority children in particular actually propelled Florida from being an achievement cellar dweller about a decade ago to one of the top performing states across student sub-groups.
Driving that momentum were the rapid achievement gains among the very students the State Education Board now says are incapable of learning. In fact, low-income black and Hispanic students outperform all of their peers from more than a dozen states combined in fourth grade reading.
This is what happens when parents are in charge of their children’s education. Dumbing down standards for dollars is what happens when politicians and bureaucrats run the show.