Nothing says “I’m inferior” like lowering expectations for a child based on his or her race.
The Florida State Board of Education has done just that, adopting a new goals guideline based on the race of the children in the school districts. CBS Tampa reports:
On Tuesday, 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.
Juan Lopez is the magnet coordinator at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach, a school with a population of 88% black students. He is unimpressed with the plan. “To expect less from one demographic and more from another is just a little off-base…Our kids, although they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they still have the ability to learn. To dumb down the expectations for one group, that seems a little unfair.”
Black and Hispanic parents in the area are angered by the new mandate. Vice-chairwoman of the Palm Beach County School Board, Debra Robinson, has been fielding calls from parents ever since news of the new ruling was made public. “I’m somewhere between complete and utter disgust and anger and disappointment with humanity,” she commented. Robinson calls the move “proclaiming racism” and said she wants Palm Beach County to continue to educate every child with the same expectations, regardless of race.
LaTanzia Jackson, chairwoman of the Coalition for Black Student Achievement in Palm Beach County, spoke to the Palm Beach Post. “It’s a slap in the face to the African American community and the Hispanic community….It sets us back a hundred years to when the expectations for a person were based on the color of your skin.”
The Board, in an effort to diffuse the claims of racism, sent a letter to the superintendents regarding their “strategic plan”:
“The overall vision of the Board is that Florida have a world-class education system that engages and prepares all students to be globally competitive for college and careers. This means 100 percent of students scoring at or above grade level in the core subject areas.
The Board determined it was important to know how students are performing in each subgroup since they examined current data that shows an unacceptable student achievement gap. … The Board continues to move forward each year with its strategic plan and the gap will be reduced until all subgroups are on grade level by 2022. The State Board set higher expectations for the rate of growth in proficiency levels for those subgroups with the lowest percentages of students currently performing at grade level.”
The Florida Department of Education said the “goals recognize that not every group is starting from the same point and are meant to be ambitious but realistic”. But isn’t this true of all families, regardless of race? Not all children are in the same economic group, not all parents are involved in their children’s educations, and not all children have the same IQ – none of these things is race-specific.
If children start off their educational life being gently tyrannized by lowered expectations, they are being set up to fail when competing against those who were held to higher standards. It perpetuates a cycle of minorities who are expected to achieve less than their white counterparts. Lowering standards is by no means a hand up – it’s cleverly disguised push down.
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