Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More on Florida's Race-Based Academic Goals

Florida is experiencing a huge fallout for its decision to make academic goals based on race. From CBS Tampa:

 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.
The plan has infuriated many community activists in Palm Beach County and across the state.

Though I can understand the initial outcry (especially if all people did was read the title of the story), this does not appear to be as bad as people are making it out to be. This rule does not lower passing scores based on race. It merely looks at where student groups are today and makes reasonable projections as to where these students should be in a few years. Gradual gains are acceptable everywhere else, so I do not understand why we expect schools to go from 38% to 100% overnight. As I said before, this rule is a response to the absolute failure of No Child Left Behind.

All students will still be expected to make learning gains. I cannot imagine a teacher writing off a black student because less of them have to pass in order to meet a state goal. A coach may go into a season knowing that getting to the championship is a long-shot, but I assure you they are going to fight to win at every game. 

All teachers, regardless of if they actually teach the subjects, will be judged based on standardized test score results. Despite the flaws in the system (as Florida teachers still wait on results from the 2011-2012 school year), all teachers have a vested interest in increasing learning gains from year to year since test scores will be part of their evaluations. 

Furthermore, these state goals are not reflective of the mandates placed on schools. Districts adopted new teacher observation systems to comply with SB736 and Race to the Top. Again, test scores will determine up to 50% of a teacher's evaluation. Third graders who fail the FCAT will be retained. Secondary students who fail a section of the FCAT will have to forgo an elective course and take a remedial class. Schools and districts will still receive A to F ratings each year. The governor may choose to rank individual schools and districts according to FCAT results again. 

Are we really lowering standards? I think not. 

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