Race-based education plan in Florida

Posted October 15th, 2012 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: , ,

The Florida Board of Education has approved a plan that will set different standards for progress in reading and math for students based on race and ethnicity.

The board’s strategic plan calls for 74% of black students to be reading at or above grade level by 2018, while seeking to achieve that level for 90% of Asian students, 88% of white students, and 81% of Hispanic students. There are similar targets in mathematics.

Board members are defending the plan, noting that it calls for improvement for all racial and ethnic groups, and arguing that the intent is to be “realistic in our ability to impact [different racial groups] at the same degree.”

Currently in Florida, 69% of white students are reading at grade level, compared with just 38% of black students, meaning that these standards call for more progress for black students than for white students.

One dissenting board member, however, has suggested that perhaps all racial groups could be held to the same high standards, adding “I would just ask my fellow board members if we are happy with the signal this sends.”

Meanwhile, Patrick Franklin, president and CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Thursday:

All children should be held to high standards and for them to say that for African-Americans the goal is below other students is unacceptable.

What do you think? Does this plan appropriately set realistic targets, based on the challenges faced by different groups? Or does it perpetuate racial inequality by setting lower standards for disadvantaged students in our educational system? Will the plan encourage teachers and administrators to be satisfied with lower achievement for black and Hispanic children, while pressing them to reach higher standards for their white and Asian students?

Update: Thanks to the Huffington Post, we now know that Virginia adopted a similar plan a few weeks ago. Their plan, part of the state’s waiver from “No Child Left Behind,” calls for only 45% of black students, for instance, to pass the state’s math test, compared with 82% of Asian-American students. The Huffington Post also notes that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said plans like this send a “devastating message” about black and Hispanic students.

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