Florida Will Grade White And Black Students On Different Scales

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?

Worse yet is the idea that race is the sole determining factor of how a child will achieve. Didn’t we expose and throw out that idea, most famously promulgated by Arthur Jensen in 1969, when he defended studies showing whites scored an average of 15 points higher than blacks on standard IQ tests, and that this gap was largely due to genetic differences between the two groups?

And much, much worse is the black child’s understanding that she or he is stupid: that to be born black means you are inferior to every other race, at least according to the Florida Board of Education.

How are Florida educators responding? From CBS News:

The plan has infuriated many community activists in Palm Beach County and across the state.

“To expect less from one demographic and more from another is just a little off-base,” Juan Lopez, magnet coordinator at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach, told the Palm Beach Post.

JFK Middle has a black student population of about 88 percent.

“Our kids, although they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they still have the ability to learn,” Lopez said. “To dumb down the expectations for one group, that seems a little unfair.”

In response to this, the Florida Department of Education has stated that their policy simply acknowledges the fact that not everyone begins their education equipped with the same set of tools. The Department believes that the goals set out by this policy are very ambitious for all races, but scaled in a realistic way.

Thankfully, not everyone agrees. From CBS News:

Palm Beach County School Board vice-chairwoman Debra Robinson isn’t buying the rationale.

“I’m somewhere between complete and utter disgust and anger and disappointment with humanity,” Robinson told the Post. 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.

What do you think?

Related Care2 Coverage

Ten Years Of No Child Left Behind: Flawed Beyond Fixing?

Gap Between Rich And Poor Students Becoming A Gulf

Hispanic-White Achievement Gap Remains Wide

Photo Credit: thinkstock

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Margaret C S.
Margaret S.2 years ago

Ya know, Alex; we could probably have a pretty interesting and enlightening discussions regarding the nature vs. nurture thing. But, I'd be willing to bet that the transaction would quickly degrade into hostility and name calling on your part considering the contempt- "political correctness", derisiveness-"... ad nauseum: "there is no such thing as race" and aggression- "not based on the premise that Jensen was wrong", also "Jensen was right and you KNOW it". I've learned the hard way not to converse on "touchy" issues with "sensitive" people like yourself. Y'all really get mean when someone doesn't agree with you and considering novel ideas are really not your idea of a good time.
So, how's the weather where you are, Bud?

Margaret C S.
Margaret S.2 years ago

Kathy P, that is an interesting observation. I especially appreciate it because it comes from your personal experience. Our school system and curriculum varies from state to state and sometimes, from county to county. The importance of education and expectations for the students do vary from household to household and school system to system (and often from teacher to teacher). Spending per student varies from city to city, community to community, county to county, region to region, state to state. The public education system in the U.S. is complicated and there is much work to be done on it for the sake of ALL our kids. If my kid attended the worst funded and the most academically inept school and yours attended the richest and most accomplished public school (or private school or even home school), they still have to live and work and be interdependent on each other when they grow up.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson2 years ago

in many ways it is far from a genetic thing. It has so much more to do with what we expect out of kids, economic differences, culture differences (and the way parents of different races/ethnicities view education). Notice that Asians parents view education as SOLE importance, whereas my ex husband and his family (hispanic) saw it as something their kids had to get through before they would be allowed to work. I know that the people around here are different culturally, and that the different races view school very differently

Alex O.
Alex O.2 years ago

"Didn’t we expose and throw out that idea, most famously promulgated by Arthur Jensen in 1969, when he defended studies showing whites scored an average of 15 points higher than blacks on standard IQ tests, and that this gap was largely due to genetic differences between the two groups?"

Sure, we "threw it out" not based on the premise that Jensen was wrong but rather because his findings didn't sit well with "political correctness". Repeat again and again, ad nauseum: "There is no such thing as race."
"All races are the same."
"You don't believe that? Well, then you're just a hateful, ignorant RACIST!"

Jensen was right and you KNOW it.

Margaret C S.
Margaret S.2 years ago

Hey, Misty: Good for you! Consider it signed (and yourself starred)! Why our schools have decided to treat kids as criminals instead of new humans with the need for love, learning and protection is beyond my understanding. These idiotic school boards impose regulations designed to humiliate and denigrate our children and then they wonder where all of the hostility towards the institution comes from. And double shame on the parents who go along with it!

Misty Lemons
Past Member 2 years ago

Unacceptable. At my child's school they've just put a policy in place to double punish students. If a child goes to the time out room 3 or more times in a semester they will be excluded from any social activities at the school. They were already punished, why punish them more and ostracize them? Parents were not even asked for their input on the policy. It was snuck under the radar and put on a recent newsletter more of as an afterthought rather than a proper announcement. I for one am not standing for this and have put together a petition that I plan on bringing to the school board at their next meeting. I need as many signatures I can get. Please, support the children. It is appreciated.


Elizabeth Koenig
Elizabeth Koenig2 years ago

I'm sure the people who developed this plan were well-meaning, but this is a *terrible* idea.

Nils Lunde

They can try but It will not succed. The time have come for Oness. The progress Is going on ALL over the world. Florida should faster than light take this idea back to where It come from and forget the whole thing. Appology Is In order, but fast!

Fran F.
Fran away F.3 years ago

Back to separate and unequal

rene davis
rene davis3 years ago

Treading down a dangerous path.