Florida schools require less from blacks and Hispanics under new education standards
The Florida Board of Education passed the plan last week and hopes to have students across the state meeting the newly created goals by 2018. And while educators are hoping to have higher test scores coming in across the board, race and ethnicity play a deciding factor in what’s expected from Sunshine State students in the years to come.
Under the approved strategic revision, 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of whites, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of blacks will be expected to read at or above their applicable reading grade levels in future tests. For math scores, they expect 92 percent of Asians, 80 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of blacks to excel, suggesting that some races warrant a lower bar than others.
Patrick Franklin, president and CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County, opposes the revision, telling the Sun Sentinel, "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.”
Cheryl Etters, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education, defends the approved plan, however, and says the decision was made so as to set "realistic and attainable" goals.
“Of course we want every student to be successful," Etters tells the Sentinel. "But we do have to take into account their starting point."
According to test scores taken from the 2011-2012 state FCAT reading exam, 69 percent of white students scored at or above grade level, while only 38 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Hispanics scored similarly.
Despite previous scores suggesting that students from some backgrounds are more likely to excel in tests than others, though, using race as a factor in establishing goals is raising opposition across Florida and the rest of the United States.
“Separate but equal is not,” Kris Amundson of Education Sector, a DC-based independent education think tank, tells Fox News. “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.”
Juan Lopez, a magnet coordinator at Riviera Beach, Florida’s predominantly black John F. Kennedy Middle School joins Amundson in opposition and tells the Sentinel that he thinks the maneuver is unfair, to say the least.
“To expect less from one demographic and more from another is just a little off-base,” Lopez says. “Our kids, although they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they still have the ability to learn,” Lopez adds. “To dumb down the expectations for one group, that seems a little unfair.”
JFK has a black student population of around 88 percent, leaving only around one-sixth of the student body to be stuck with studying more.
Florida Department of Ed Chairperson Kathleen Shanahan tells reporters that the revision is being made to help comply with the terms included in a waiver that Florida and nearly three dozen other states have within provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, the President George W. Bush-approved legislation that allocated federal funding to public schools that takes into account test scores.
“We feel that it’s very, very important to have these goals so that we can draw attention to where our students are now, where each of the subgroups are so that schools and parents and teachers can all focus on where we are and where we need to be eventually,” Interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart tells The Examiner in support of the revisions.
The Examiner notes that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush wrote an editorial in the Washington Times only last month calling into question similar benchmarks in Virginia.
“Schools’ expectations should be color blind. As a nation, we have rejected police use of racial profiling on the streets, by what rational do we now accept it from educators in the classroom,” Gov. Bush wrote.