With a vote, the State Board of Education sealed a plan, laying out expectations for students based on their race.
“I’d just ask my fellow board members if we are happy with the signal that this sends?” said John Padget.
The board’s strategic plan calls for 90% of Asian students and 88% of white students to be reading at grade level or higher by 2018. The bar is lower for Hispanic students at 81% and lower still at 74% for black students.
State Representative Alan Williams says the board needs to rethink its strategy. “The Board of Education should probably go back to the drawing board as it relates to this and really get some more input from other constituencies.”
The goals weren’t set haphazardly; they’re actually based on an equation involving how different races of students are performing right now.
69% of white students read at grade level, 53% of Hispanic students, and 38% of black students hit the mark.
In a one-on-one interview with Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, she said only the six year plan has goals based on race. By 2022, the board wants all students at 100% proficiency in reading and math. “The board very clearly has a goal that 100% of our students will be proficient. It is in our mission, vision statement and so when we look at that we have to look at where our students are right now.”
Stewart also says students won’t notice a difference in the classroom, but critics say the message alone promotes division.
The board didn’t just set goals based on race. By 2018, the board wants large overall gains in math and reading. Right now, only 57% of ALL Florida students read at their grade level and 58% are proficient in Math. The board is raising the bar to 83% for reading and 82% for math.