Putting Education Reform To The Test

Explaining Florida’s New Race-Based Achievement Goals

SD Dirk / Flickr

Is Florida setting the bar lower for black and Hispanic students, or higher?

The State Board of Education is taking criticism for a new five-year plan which local school officials say sets lower goals for blacks, Hispanics and other groups than for white or Asian students.

But the plan also asks for more improvement from those same black and Hispanic students than their higher-performing classmates, something supporters say is being overlooked.

The goal is to close the gap between the percentage of white and Asian students scoring at or above grade level on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and the percentage of black and Hispanic students doing so.

Part of the problem is how the Department of Education presented the numbers.

The percentage of students passing state exams is always the most important number — and the new plan does set higher thresholds for Asian and white students.

But it’s possible to argue the new plan asks more of black, Hispanic and other lower-performing groups.

For instance, the percentage of white students scoring at or above grade level on the state reading exam must increase by 19 percentage points over the next five years to meet the new state goals. That’s a 27.5 percent increase.

The percentage of black students scoring at or above grade level on the state reading exam must increase by 36 percentage points to meet state goals. That’s a 94.7 percent increase.

The state is seeking similar or larger increases for the percentage of economically disadvantaged, English language learners and students with disabilities.

“That’s certainly not where we want and need to be by any means; but it is leaps and bounds ahead of current growth trajectories,” Amy Wilkins with D.C.-based think tank The Education Trust wrote in defense of the plan. “To meet these goals for Latino and African-American students, schools will have to finally and quite deliberately focus more attention and resources on them.”

Florida has to set different goals for each race, Wilkins writes, because it’s required by the federal Department of Education in exchange for waiving some requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

Other states are also adopting plans that differentiate between racial groups.

The plan has been criticized around the state, a chorus that started in Broward County. Superintendent Robert Runcie wondered why the state would approve a policy that acknowledges the status quo.

“Why do we want to perpetuate what’s going on today?” he said to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “The reality we have today is not the reality that we want to see tomorrow.”

State Board of Education members offered similar critiques before the panel approved the plan.

We’ve put the new state plan into a table so you can see how the goals compare for each group.

Show rows.
Current Reading Pass Rate
2018 Reading Pass Rate
Reading Pct Change
Current Math Pass Rate
2018 Math Pass Rate
Math Pct Change
American Indian55%82%49%58%81%40%
Black/African American38%74%95%40%74%85%
Economically Disadvantaged46%78%70%48%78%63%
English Language Learners33%72%118%41%74%80%
Students With Disabilities29%71%145%32%72%125%


  • TEM

    I have not heard anything on NPR about this. Maybe
    I missed it.

    this not awesome? For those of us who believe evolution is applicable from the
    chin up and does not stop at the chin as some seem to believe this is a back
    door way of confirming IQ testing results that are generally available but
    ignored. One can have significant differences in male genitalia, muscles, skeletal structure, etc., but by the time one gets to the brain there are no differences. Is that not insanity? It almost sounds like an argument for a flat earth.

    I suspect the goals Florida adopted correlate
    precisely with the differences in IQ measurements across the races. The ranking
    from IQ, highest to lowest, is Oriental, white, Hispanic, and black. So, let me
    see. Here is an alternative NPR answer. Those funny Oriental symbols that are
    read right to left are more easily transformed into English grammar than is say
    Spanish or black English.

    How funny and what a delight!

  • lower the basket ball hoop for the short players

  • All three of my African-American daughters have done really well on the FCAT. It does take work! I’m sadden that their white counterparts will have a reason to laugh, tease or think they’re better because DOE has lowered the standards for my girls who consistently out perform their white counterparts academically. You’re setting our kids up for failure and a life of poverty!

    • James Arrington

      You say that, but I bet you will be voting for Obama… Who, I bet is open to backing this.

      • Why would you assume that Myra is voting for Obama?

        • SwamperJack

          Probably because 96% of blacks did.

  • Stephanie

    .How about if we just assume that ALL men are created equal. My children have talents that yours do not…..just as yours have talents that mine don’t. Our world is rich because of it. I don’t understand how educators say that we can’t put “a square peg in a round hole” yet they keep trying to push the “peg” thru. I think they are the ones constantly pointing out the differences and trying to compensate. Let’s appreciate the differences

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