According to the Daily Caller, lower performance benchmarks in Florida will be set for Hispanic, Native American and African-American students, with higher benchmarks put in place for Non-Hispanic whites and Asian-American students. The Florida State Board of Education is developing a strategic plan to create performance guidelines based on race and ethnicity for students in the subjects of reading and math.
“It is our goal to ensure that there is no such thing as an achievement gap in Florida’s K-12 education system,” State Board Chairman Gary Chartrand said in a statement. “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.”
Effectiveness of lower performance benchmarks
Chartrand explained that between the years of 2001 and 2010, the achievement gap between African-Americans and non-Hispanic whites only decreased by 5 points. “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,” he said.
Critics of the new performance benchmarks are concerned Florida is lowering standards for children based on race, a decision Patrick Franklin, Urban League of Palm Beach County President told the Examiner was “unacceptable.”
Concerns that students will be harmed by the new policies have also been raised.
“[There are] a lot of [Asian] students that are average and below average. Being perceived as a higher achiever really hurts a lot of students,” said Winnie Tang, President of the Asian American Federation of Florida to the Examiner.
Supporters of the performance benchmarks plan, however, feel it is an excellent way to accelerate the education goals of students who historically have lower achievement percentages.
According to Cheryl Etters, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education, the new performance benchmarks program sets reasonable and attainable goals. While the Board of Education wants every child to be successful, members feel it is important to take into consideration a student’s “starting point.”
“Setting objectives that will ensure the best access and opportunities for our state’s diverse student population, while increasing educator effectiveness, raising standards, and deepening the level of school curriculum, are at the forefront of Florida’s ambitious education agenda,” wrote the Board of Education in the strategic plan outline.