OCTOBER 10, 2012
On the heels of a similar move by a medium-sized city, Florida has set different achievement targets for public school students based on race and ethnicity with lower goals for blacks and Hispanics and higher ones for whites and Asians.
Just a few weeks ago the District of Columbia announced a similar plan that also includes lower academic achievement goals for poor kids in addition to blacks and Hispanics. Like Florida, the area surrounding the nation’s capital has also set higher reading and math achievement standards for Asian and white students.
This appears to be part of a national trend implemented by the Obama Administration, which is paying states to adopt an assortment of 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 the Florida Board of Education approved the new race-based standards for all of the 2.6 million students that attend the state’s 3,629 public schools. The mandate says that by 2018, 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanic students, and 74 percent of black students are to be reading on grade level.
At least two members of Florida’s Board of Education questioned the move in the media. One said that, as a matter of philosophy, the state should have the same goal for all categories of citizenry. The other said that an Asian child and Hispanic child should be held to the same standard. Never the less, the race and ethnicity-based learning targets have been implemented in the Sunshine State.
Offering states incentives to lower academic standards for minorities may seem like a contradiction for the Obama Administration considering it 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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