SEPTEMBER 21, 2012
In a first for any American public school system, education officials in the District of Columbia have set new achievement targets for students based on race and income with lower goals for black, Hispanic and poor kids and higher ones for whites and Asians.
Washington D.C. officials are simply following a national trend implemented by the Obama Administration, which is paying states to adopt different education achievement goals for different groups of children. The administration is just “trying to be realistic about what’s achievable,” according to a U.S. Department of Education (DOE) official quoted in the mainstream newspaper that reported the dramatic shift in policy this week.
Besides D.C., more than two dozen states have set special academic targets for different groups of students, which the news story points out represents a sea of change in national education policy that for years prescribed blanket goals for all students. Evidently, the Obama Administration believes this new approach will speed achievement for black, Latino and low-income students.
Officials in the area surrounding the nation’s capital took the bull by the horns, setting specific race-based goals for the next five years, even though some parents view it as a form of prejudice. The plan sets goals according to demographics. For instance the reading proficiency level at an almost exclusively black school in an impoverished area is expected to be much lower than an already high-performing magnet school across the city. One D.C. parent calls the plan “disgraceful.”
Lowering academic standards for minorities may seem like a contradiction for an administration that has vowed to end the “educational inequities” long suffered by blacks and Latinos in the U.S. In fact, earlier this year the DOE issued civil rights equity data to makes this argument by, among other things, revealing that minorities have less access to rigorous high school curricula. Teachers in schools that serve minorities also tend to get less pay, according to the DOE’s findings.
Last spring the agency published a report that essentially said America’s progress is impossible if Hispanics keep lagging in education. That’s because their success is of “immediate and long term importance” to the U.S. economy, according to the report, which vowed to enhance opportunities for the “Latino community.” There was no mention of lowering academic standards as a way to achieve this goal, however.
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