As a teacher, my goal is always to set high expectations for all my students.
So I was horrified to read that last month, the State Board of Education in Florida approved a new set of student achievement goals for math and reading that differ, depending upon the student’s race, ethnic background and other characteristics.
I am not the only one shocked and dismayed by this action; the plan, which sets its target date as 2018, has produced a huge outcry of opposition from educators and activists across the state.
In case you too are incredulous and outraged, here are the exact details, from Education News:
The board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities.
And here’s the explanation that follows:
The policy is an acknowledgment that due to the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers, they would have a much higher mountain to climb to meet achievement metrics that were uniform across all racial and ethnic groups. Last year, for example, while 69% of white students tested at grade level on the reading FCAT, less than 40% of black students met the same standard. While the picture isn’t as bleak for Hispanic kids, of whom 53% were at grade level, they still lag their white classmates by more than 15%.
So, instead of trying to close the racial achievement gap which, in spite of its flaws, the No Child Left Behind Act set out to do, the board decided to use that gap to set goals for what it expects children of different races to achieve over the next six years. Rather than fighting the racism evident in educational achievement gaps, Florida is throwing up its hands and deciding that from now on, black children performing more poorly than Asian children will be the accepted rule, rather than an educational problem.
What does this mean for teachers? Should they create differing grading scales based on the color of their students’ skin? That could get pretty complicated: I currently teach classes with white, Hispanic, Asian, and Pacific Islander students. So do I have to come up with four different rubrics for each assignment?
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