According to The Palm Beach Post, the Florida State Board of Education (FBE) has adopted a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, FBE wants 90% of Asian students, 88% of white students, 81% of Hispanics, and 74% of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92% of Asian students proficient, whites 86%, Hispanics 80% percent, and blacks 74%. It also measures by other groupings such as poverty and disabilities.
These race-based goals have educators and community activists across the state furious. The Florida Department of Education (FDE) said the goals recognize that not every group is starting from the same point and are meant to be ambitious but realistic. For instance, 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% in 2011-2012, according to the state. For black students, it was 38%, and for Hispanics, it was 53%.
FBE 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. The waivers have been granted to free states from some federal regulations. “We have set a very high goal for all students to reach in Florida,” Shanahan said. FDE defends the strategic plan and the reading and math targets, saying that if each subgroup follows the trajectory laid out in the strategic plan, all students will be 100% proficient by the 2022-2023 school year.
Palm Beach County School Board vice-chairwoman Debra Robinson rejects FDE’s rationale. “I’m somewhere between complete and utter disgust and anger and disappointment with humanity,” Robinson said. She said she has been receiving complaints from upset black and Hispanic parents since the state board took its action this week. Robinson called the state board’s actions essentially “proclaiming racism” and said she wants Palm Beach County to continue to educate every child with the same expectations, regardless of race.
Other states, such as Virginia, have also come under fire in recent months for setting achievement goals based on race. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus sent a letter to Governor Bob McDonnell in August after that state released its new goals, calling the benchmarks “insulting and narrow-minded.”
LaTanzia Jackson, chairwoman of the Coalition for Black Student Achievement in Palm Beach County, said that as an African American and a parent, she was insulted by the state’s plan. “It’s setting us back into times we have fought so hard to come away from,” Jackson said. “It’s a slap in the face to the African American community and the Hispanic community.” Jackson added, “It sets us back a hundred years to when the expectations for a person were based on the color of your skin.”
Source: The Palm Beach Post, 10/11/12, By Allison Ross and Jason Schultz
[Editor's Note: In August 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Newport News Daily Press, which reported that new achievement objectives for Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) had upset the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, calling them “insulting and narrow minded” in a letter to Governor Bob McDonnell. The caucus’ chairwoman, state Senator Mamie Locke, said the state is marginalizing students by setting different goals for how many pass each SOL test based on their race or background.]