Florida's Plan to Measure Students by Race Riles Education Experts

Published on October 15, 2012
by Fox News in Accountability and School Improvement, K-12 Education, Data-Driven Improvement

Excerpt from Joshua Rhett Miller's article.

A new policy by Florida educators to set student goals in math and reading based on their race is an “ill-advised” plan that is destined to fail, education analysts told FoxNews.com.

By 2018, Florida’s Department of Education wants 90 percent of its Asian students to be reading at or above grade level, compared to 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanic pupils and 74 percent of African-American children. In math, state educational officials want that figure to be 92 percent for Asian students, or 18 percent higher than that of African-American students and 11 percent higher than their American Indian counterparts.

“Separate but equal is not,” said Kris Amundson of Education Sector, an independent education think tank based in Washington. “I understand that this is recognition that students are beginning at different places — and that’s honest — but I think it is, at best, ill-advised to set different learning standards for students based on the color of their skin.”

Amundson, a former chairwoman of the Fairfax County School Board in Virginia, said the plan “sends the wrong message” to children, adding that the lower standards for minorities closely reflects what President George W. Bush once dubbed the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

“It’s better to say 80 or 90 [percent], or whatever your number is, and then acknowledge that schools aren’t hitting targets because of certain populations,” she said. “That’s more honest than creating a system where everyone gets a trophy.”

The 24-page strategic plan, which was approved in October, also sets differing goals for students who are economically disadvantaged, those with disabilities and children who are still learning English. Florida Department of Education officials were unavailable for comment Monday, but Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand responded late Tuesday to insist that the goal is still to get all children "100 percent proficient."

"We have to acknowledge that there are different starting points among groups of students today," Chartrand said in a written statement. "We can only close the achievement gap in Florida if we are willing to have an honest conversation about what it will take to get all students to that level of success."

Board member Kathleen Shanahan has said the goals are needed to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have within provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

According to state statistics, 69 percent of white students in Florida scored at or above grade level in reading during the 2011-2012 school year, compared to 53 percent of Hispanic students and 38 percent of their African-American classmates...