Florida To Set Race-Based Academic Goals

Florida's new education policy essentially assumes that minority students cannot do as well as their peers. That's a mistake.

The State of Florida is apparently going forward with a plan that will create differing academic goals for students based on their race:

The Florida State Board of Education passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race.

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. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post.

To expect less from one demographic and more from another is just a little off-base,” Juan Lopez, magnet coordinator at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach, told the Palm Beach Post.

JFK Middle has a black student population of about 88 percent.

“Our kids, although they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they still have the ability to learn,” Lopez said. “To dumb down the expectations for one group, that seems a little unfair.”

Not just unfair, it seems counterproductive and almost as if you’re returning to some kind of form of quasi-integration where poor minority students are just going to be assumed to be less intelligent than their counterparts. While I’m no education expert, that doesn’t strike me as the kind of policy that is going to have any chance of actually helping these students. Instead, Florida seems to be resigned to just pushing them along through the school system by assuming they cannot possibly measure up to the academic levels of their peers, and then handing them a High School Diploma at the end of the process that will be of questionable value because it won’t represent the same level of academic achievement as the ones given to other students for whom greater academic success was demanded. How, exactly, does that help these students break out of the situation that they are in? It seems to me that all it really does is guarantee that they’ll be stuck where they are, and given very little hope that they’ll ever be able to make anything better of themselves.

Part of the problem here, of course, are the fact that School Districts need to comply with Federally-set academic goals to begin with thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act, a bill based by a Republican President and Congress that vastly increased Federal control and influence over education at the local level. This becomes a bigger problem for schools in poorer areas than it does for suburban schools, not just because the suburban schools generally have more money but because the students that go to those schools generally grow up an in environment where parents are far more involved in their child’s education. Kids who go to school in poor, predominantly inner city, schools often end up having one hand tied behind their back by virtue of the fact that they come from single parent households, or their parents quite simply don’t give a crap about their education. There’s not a whole lot that more money for an inner city school can do to fix a broken home.

It strikes me, though, that there are better ways to deal with that problem other than making an assumption students from certain racial and ethnic groups are destined to do worse than their peers regardless of all other factors. One answer might be to relax the requirements for school districts in these areas, as Jazz Shaw suggests in his post on this policy yesterday. The one danger I see in that, though, is that it has the potential to coddle ineffective administrators and teachers rather than actually helping the students. The other option, of course, is to expand the opportunities available to these students through Charter Schools, vouchers, and similar programs. Where they’ve been tried, Charter Schools have been quite effective in raising academic performance among poor and minority children, and vouchers give parents who do care the opportunity to take their children out of a failing school rather than dooming them to a lost education. There may be other options that can be tried in addition to these, but it strikes me that anything would be better than basically saying that Latino and African-American children can’t do as well as white and Asian children so we should just expect less out of them. That’s the kind of policy that ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

FILED UNDER: Education, Race and Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Jay Dubbs says:

    As a Florida resident, with kids in the public schools, this dismays me as much as anything else I have seen the state do on education, and there has been a lot to cause dismay.

    Frankly, I wonder if this isn’t really a backdoor effort to continue trying to discredit public schools here in Florida. It is a joke and a disgrace.

    BTW this is the bio of one of the members who commented in the story:

    Kathleen M. Shanahan is currently Chairman and CEO of URETEK Holdings, Inc. URETEK Holdings is a Florida based company focused on soil stabilization and densification for infrastructure rehabilitation. URETEK provides fast, minimally-disruptive, cost-effective repair solutions through the use of a patented polymer based application process.

    Ms. Shanahan has a distinguished background in business, politics and public service. Previously, Kathleen was Chairman and CEO of WRScompass, a civil and environmental construction company, from July 2005 thru July 2011. WRScompass experienced significant growth under Kathleen’s leadership. Prior to her executive management posts, Kathleen was a senior consultant to former New York Stock Exchange CEO John Thain, and a senior executive in charge of public and community affairs at PaineWebber.

    Additionally, she has held federal and state public policy positions of chief of staff for Florida Governor Jeb Bush, chief of staff to Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, deputy secretary of the California Trade and Commerce Agency, special assistant to then Vice President George Bush, and staff assistant on President Reagan’s National Security Council.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    I’m sorry…Republicans are just f’ing stupid. And you cannot fix stupid.

  3. Jay Dubbs says:

    Here is the link to bios of the Board members, it explains a lot:

  4. DC Loser says:

    As an Asian American, I’m tired of being discriminated against and held to a higher standard!

  5. JKB says:

    You realize, of course, all they’ve done here is laid bare the tenets of modern affirmative action, right. The racial balancing that schools have to do to keep the diversity police off their back uses the same criteria but with a wink and a nod rather than spelling it out in transparency.

    Heck, Obama has even come out with the requirement that black kids not be held to the same discipline standard as other racial groups.

  6. jukeboxgrad says:

    Doug, probably someone else already told you, but Frank Rich cited you in NY Magazine yesterday (link). I realize he has done this before (link).

    Off-topic, I know.

  7. A friend of mine sent me that link this morning. Interesting.

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Well, keep in mind that when you’re reading a liberal media article often you have to delve down waaaaay past the headline and the first couple of grafs to obtain even the slightest degree of context. The 9th graf of that piece is as follows:

    In addition, State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan said that setting goals for different subgroups was needed to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have from some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These waivers were used to make the states independent from some federal regulations.

    IOW, Florida like most states on the education front is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, for obvious and salutory reasons, they want to get away from NCLB and therefore out from being under the Feds’ thumb. But in exchange they’re in essence compelled to establish race-based standards, which of course equally are dumb. NCLB was one of the worst items of federal legislation in decades. The cure is about is damaging as the disease.

    Also keep in mind these largely if not entirely are Republican BOE members about which we’re speaking. So they can’t win for losing. No matter what they would do or attempt to do the left-wing cabals (media, unions, local administrators, chattering classes, etc.) would scald them for it. Heads they win, tails you lose, when you’re a Republican.

    As far as vouchers go they’re a no brainer. Charter schools also are a viable and necessary alternative to left-wing public edukayscien. For obvious reasons, however, the left will fight tooth and nail against those measures until and perhaps even after the end of days. C’est la vie.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    Disappointing. From the linked article:

    In addition, State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan said that setting goals for different subgroups was needed to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have from some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These waivers were used to make the states independent from some federal regulations.

    The problem here would appear to be in the identifying of subgroups. One could think of many subgroups besides race: poverty; mobility (moving from school to school frequently); urban community; single-parent homes; parental participation. Unfortunately, probably no single factor is determinative, but the more boxes checked, no-doubt the worse the outcomes.

  10. Console says:

    Where they’ve been tried, Charter Schools have been quite effective in raising academic performance among poor and minority children

    That’s not accurate.

  11. Catfish says:

    The states need to get the Federal government out of the schools. They have no business or constitutional authority to interfere, run, take over, or tell professional educators how to teach. The states need to turn the schools back over to the local communities and stay out as much as possible. The principals and teachers need to be given the authority to run their classroom and school. Judges, lawyers, and the ACLU also need to leave the schools alone: they have taken authority away from the teachers to control classroom behavior. Governors need to block the Department of “Education” and “Justice” Department from interfering with the schools.

  12. PD Shaw says:

    Frank Rich appears to be saying Doug is one of the cockroaches on the American Body Politic, but he agrees with me so he’s a brilliant cockroach.

  13. wr says:

    @Catfish: That’s right. And as soon as the Feds get out of schools, Florida can go back to having separate school systems for whites and blacks, and they won’t have any of these problems. Separate but equal, baby, that’s what the Confederate States of America are all about.

  14. PD Shaw says:

    The states aren’t required to comply with No Child Left Behind; they just don’t get to take federal funding.

  15. rudderpedals says:

    The looting shall continue until morale improves!

    I’m sure they’re great people IRL but if most of these appointees were selected for reasons other than experience extracting private value from public enterprise or loyalty to the governor I’ll eat my hat again.

  16. rudderpedals says:

    @PD Shaw: I think this is exactly right. Race is being used in a lazy almost slovenly way to stand in for more accurate and less offensive measures. Offensive could be a feature not a bug.

  17. Tony W says:

    And you cannot fix stupid.

    Perhaps an even lower standard for the offspring of Republicans is in order

  18. Catfish says:

    @wr: Some of the best schools in the country are inner city schools. Check this one out: http://www.capitalprep.org/
    High percentage of minority students (88%) 97% proficiency in reading
    Long ago, the government bought into the fallacy that a minority student cannot learn unless they are sitting next to a white student.

  19. wr says:

    @Catfish: “Long ago, the government bought into the fallacy that a minority student cannot learn unless they are sitting next to a white student. ”

    Actually, what they “bought into” was the fact that if there are two systems, one for whites and one for blacks, then the bulk of the resources are going to the white schools. This was a fact, not a “fallacy,” and all the whining in the world won’t change it.

  20. Trumwill says:

    There is an issue that in Florida and elsewhere, states are having a more difficult time educating some groups more than others. This remains true, as far as I know, even when we account for economics. The end result is that states with large minority populations appear to be failing (when looking at, for instance, the NAEP scores) when if you account for racial demographics they aren’t doing nearly so badly (or in some cases are doing quite well) with African-Americans, Hispanics, or whites when compared to the same in other states.

    Maybe there is a better way of going about it, but I can understand the rationale here.

  21. Catfish says:

    @Trumwill: “a better way of doing it”: go this website about a famous school that is achieving : http://www.capitalprep.org/
    There are videos there that show how it can be done.

  22. An Interested Party says:

    Heck, Obama has even come out with the requirement that black kids not be held to the same discipline standard as other racial groups.

    And the evidence to support this assertion?

    Also keep in mind these largely if not entirely are Republican BOE members about which we’re speaking. So they can’t win for losing. No matter what they would do or attempt to do the left-wing cabals (media, unions, local administrators, chattering classes, etc.) would scald them for it. Heads they win, tails you lose, when you’re a Republican.

    Ahh, the Conservative Victim Complex continues…some things never change…

  23. john personna says:

    A recent study tied the halt in improving test scores among black students to the onset of the crack epidemic. That cuts across policy in more than one way.

  24. john personna says:

    That story via freakanomics.

  25. bill says:

    the more you lower the bar, the lower they will sink to avoid clearing it. you can’t force people to learn just like you can’t legislate morality. education begins at home and needs to be sustained there as well, one big problem for some of our populace- and no, it’s not a racial thing.

  26. grumpy realist says:

    @bill: So you’re a single mother having to pull down two jobs just to get enough wages to keep her and her child alive, and you think it’s HER problem that she doesn’t have the time or energy to sit down and read 5 stories to the kid at bedtime?!

    I really wish that all those “well, the poor made their own choices” people would actually try to live on a McJob salary and see what it’s really like.

  27. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    This seems like a reading comprehension fail. They don’t “create differing academic goals for students based on their race”. They create differing academic targets for the schools based on groupings.

    This is just a sensible approach since the target numbers are not relative (improve by x%) but absolute (x% of the group should be literal). As such, raising literacy rates from 38% to 88% (Blacks) is harder than from 69% to 88% (Whites). Setting the same goals while providing the same financing regardless of composition of the student body would disproportionally disadvantage minority schools.

    As such this has nothing to do with “handing them a High School Diploma at the end of the process” -> individual-based lower standards but rather with setting realistic goals -> group-overall lower standard.

    Of course the goal must be equal literacy rates for everybody. But ignoring starting points seems unlikely to help with this.

  28. bill says:

    @grumpy realist: yes, she is a mother first- it’s hard but not that hard. of course the baby daddy needs to pay as well, but that’s the life they lead and the price they pay. it’s not a horrible life, just makes you have to try harder than most Americans seem willing to do these days.

  29. superdestroyer says:

    In all 50 states, whites outperform blacks. In virtually every school district in the nation, whites outperform blacks. Even Paul Krugman was shown to be an idiot when he confused school performance with demographic difference.

    No state, no school district, virtually no school has found a way to ensure that blacks perform at the same level as whites. So the questions quickly becomes in the age of limited resources, should school districts put all of their resources into raising the achieve of blacks and Hispanic while ignoring whites and Asians, or the schools can try to to improve every students level while accepting that blacks will underperform versus whites (on average).