Herbert Dyer, Jr.

The Miami Herald is reporting that the Florida Department of Education has decided to assess public school student achievement based on an individual student’s race and/or ethnicity.

The state Board of Education has ruled as follows:

In reading – by the year 2018:

1) That 90 percent of Asian students be at or above grade level;

2) That white students be at 88 percent;

3) That Hispanics be at 81 percent; and

4) That Blacks be at 74%.

In math – by the year 2018:

1) That 92 percent of Asian students score at or above grade level;

2) That white students score at 86 percent;

3) That Hispanic students score at 80 percent; and

4) That Black students score at 74%.

Reaction to this new and improved form of “separate but equal” education has been fast and furious.

"If Asians can have a goal of 90% in reading, why can't whites, and other subcategories? So I would just ask my fellow board members if we are happy with the signal this sends," said board member John Padget, WTLV/WJXX TV's Kaitlyn Ross reports from Jacksonville.

"All children should be held to high standards and for them to say that for African Americans the goal is below other students is unacceptable," said Patrick Franklin, president and CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Supporters of the plan argued that they are after “improvement in the numbers” over current levels, and that, statistically each racial group is simply not expected (read capable) to improve at the same rate.

Board member Kathleen Shanahan put it this way: "I think we need to be realistic in our ability to impact those at the same degree," she said.

Cheryl Etters speaks for the Florida Department of Education. She denied any racial and certainly racist intent in the Board’s action, saying that varying achievement expectation numbers are not meant to lower expectations but simply recognize an on-the-ground, in-class reality, and therefore establish and implement "realistic and attainable" goals. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Ms. Etters also said that, "Of course we want every student to be successful. But we do have to take into account their starting point."


Does anybody other than black or brown people see even the slightest racial discrimination at work here? Do we have to rub your face in it for you to understand that this nation is based on and continues to operate from a race-based premise? Imagine how you would feel as a parent of a child who came home with a note from the teacher explaining that he no longer had to work for a passing grade, or that instead of scoring 70 on tests in order pass, he would be passed with a score of only 60.

This actually happened to me in eighth grade. My junior high (now called "middle") school had two “tracks” for English “Core” classes. Track I was for the “advanced” students; and Track II was for the rest of us. When my mother found out that I had been placed in Track II, she dragged me to a PTA meeting and raised holy hell with the teachers, administrators, and anybody else who would listen. I was put into Track I, and, indeed, English composition became my favorite subject. I have been writing, and being published and paid to write, since 1966.

The Track II students were mainly poor whites, blacks and a smattering of Hispanics. What Florida is doing is shameful on its face, and I’m hopeful that somebody down there will sue that state in federal court in order to make equal education – not to mention voting rights – equal across the board for all its citizens.

You see, rather than work to eliminate the conditions that cause these “racial disparities” in educational achievement levels in the first instance, the levels of achievement are simply lowered to meet black and brown students where they are – at a lower socio-economic level. How does what Florida is doing differ from “affirmative action” as currently practiced? In two ways:

1) Affirmative action takes students who have essentially already been through the system, a system which has failed them, not which they have failed, and provides an added, if unearned benefit so that they may compete on a level playing field; and

2) Florida, as the distributor and allocator of public funds to public schools, can immediately affect outcomes and achievements of all public students by simply providing a fair and equitable distribution of those funds. If, as in Illinois and many other states, school funding is based on real estate taxes, then that system should be changed everywhere to reflect the needs of particular school districts rather than the costs of a parent's home and thus its tax assessment.

The Florida plan is a perverse kind of “reverse affirmative action” plan in that rather than trying to provide a hand up to disaffected groups, one merely accepts them where they are – under the assumption that for "racial" reasons alone black and brown students cannot go any further (higher).

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