Putting Education Reform To The Test

Race-Based Scoring Controversy Gets Attention From Lawmakers


State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand.

Governor Rick Scott doesn’t like the way the State Board of Education has proposed closing the achievement gap between students.

The board released a five year plan that sets different passing thresholds on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) — which vary by student race and ethnicity.

The plan calls for higher passing scores among Asian and white students, while setting higher expectations for improvement among black and Hispanic students.

In response, Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement saying in part: 

“We have to measure student achievement and ensure the highest level of accountability.

When looking at those measurements, an achievement gap still exists between different groups of students in our state. 

The actions taken last week by the State Board of Education in adopting their strategic plan did not clearly articulate our shared commitment to fully close that achievement gap for all students, regardless of race, geography, gender or other circumstance. 

The standards set by the State Board must clearly and sincerely acknowledge that all students are capable of performing at grade level regardless of their race or background and that our ultimate goal is to ensure there is no achievement gap in Florida’s education system.”

Rep. Perry Thurston (D-Plantation), the incoming Florida House Democratic leader, wrote:

“I am hopeful that the Board of Education will recraft the plan so that it seeks improved student performance across the board instead of one based on race and ethnicity. As I’ve stated before, it is simply wrong to imply that one race is academically inferior to another.”

The controversy isn’t lost on board Chairman Gary Chartrand, who issued his own statement:

“I specifically asked department staff to include a footnote in the strategic plan that clearly states the goal of the State Board of Education is that all children would become 100 percent proficient. 

We have to acknowledge that there are different starting points among groups of students today. We can only close the achievement gap in Florida if we are willing to have an honest conversation about what it will take to get all students to that level of success.

Absent this kind of measurement focus, the achievement gap between African American students and white students in Florida was only reduced by five percentage points between 2001 and 2010. 

By clearly outlining that all students are capable of performing on grade level and understanding what we will need to do to move them towards that goal, we can make sure that every student in Florida is prepared for success in college and careers.”


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