Florida Schools Approve Race-Based Learning Goals

The controversial new plan sets the bar lower for the state's Black students.

Posted: 10/15/2012 11:51 AM EDT
Florida Schools Approve Race-Based Learning Goals

Florida’s State Board of Education recently passed a set of controversial reading and math standards for students based entirely upon race.

Under the new guidelines, the schools are aiming to achieve reading proficiency levels of 90 percent for Asian students, 88 percent for white students, 81 percent for Latino students and 74 percent for Black students by 2018.

“I’m somewhere between complete and utter disgust and anger and disappointment with humanity,” Palm Beach County School Board vice-chairwoman Debra Robinson told the Palm Beach Post. Robinson says Black and Hispanic parents have been calling her office to complain about the measure since the decision came down Tuesday.

Although placed at the bottom of the achievement rung, African-Americans and Latinos aren’t the only groups upset about the new goals. Florida’s Asian communities are also concerned about what effect the tiered program will have on their students.

President of the Asian American Federation of Florida Winnie Tang told the Sun-Sentinel that Florida's Asian communities "have a lot of students that are average and below average. Being [perceived as] a higher achiever really hurts a lot of students."

According to the Florida Department of Education, the goals are meant to be “realistic.” State Board of Education chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan told the Post that the race-specific goals were necessary for the schools to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

And Florida's board of education isn't the only one to pass such measures. Washington, D.C., and Virginia’s school boards ignited similar furor when they adopted race-based benchmarks for learning in their school systems.

"One-hundred percent of our students should be reading [at or above grade level]," Florida commissioner of education Pam Stewart said, according to CBS News, defending the goals. "The strategy targets a more rapid rate of improvement in the percentages of students who are already behind.”

However, at least one school district, Florida’s Palm Beach County schools, say they won’t entertain the new scheme.


“Our goal here in Palm Beach County is to get all students proficient and beyond and to get them college or career ready,” school district spokesman Nat Harrington told the paper. “We’re not going to lower our standards for any students. We’re not going to stop attempting to close the gap.

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(Photo: Commercial Appeal /Landov)

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