Governor Rick Scott made the right call in declaring “unacceptable” the race-based achievement goals outlined in the Florida Board of Education’s recently released five-year strategic plan.
The Hispanic Council for Reform and Education Options (HCREO) believes that the Board’s plan is not merely unacceptable; it is insulting and counterproductive to the education needs of all Florida children. Just as politics should not drive our education system, race and ethnicity should not determine the expectations we set for our students. Education reform – including the choices we give to students and their parents – is about the capacity of our youth to achieve when given the proper classroom tools and instruction.
The state’s plan outlines that by 2018, 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanic students and 74 percent of black students should be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are set at having proficiency levels of 92 percent for Asian students, 86 percent for white students, 80 percent for Hispanic students, and 74 percent for black students.
To set these different bars for students is to say, effectively, that we believe one group is capable of achieving more simply because of their skin color and ethnic background. That approach might have reigned back in the days of segregated classrooms, but it has no place in today’s classrooms.
In case the Board of Education isn’t aware: We are living in 2012. The nation’s first black President is running for re-election. Louisiana’s governor is Indian. The mayor of San Antonio, Texas made history this summer when he became the first Hispanic to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. These successful leaders did not achieve because of, or in spite of, the skin color and families into which they were born. They succeeded because they had education and support from teachers and others who believed in their abilities.
Every student in every Florida classroom today deserves the same.
We should expect 100 percent from all children. We should not shortchange them by expecting less than that for some based on their ethnic and racial background.
HCREO, the national school choice group committed to improving education for minority students, is well aware of the achievement gap facing our minority students. According to national data from the Pew Hispanic Center, only about 13 percent of Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds complete at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 39 percent for whites in the same age group and 53 percent for Asians. But we believe this gap reflects an education system that isn’t working – as opposed to any differences in the achievement potential of these students. The public education system as it stands, and as it has stood for decades, has failed our students of color for too long.
This is why HCREO is committed to working with our leaders to address and solve this education crisis by opening the door of opportunity to every child. A child’s academic destiny should not be tied to a parent’s income, a skin color, or an ethnicity. All parents have the right to choose a learning program that is stimulating and challenging to their children. Florida, Indiana, and Louisiana are among the states making significant progress in opening school choice options to more families of every ethnicity. Until every student is succeeding, we must remain diligent in our work.
I hope you will join HCREO in demanding the Board of Education develop a plan for closing the achievement gap that encourages every student, of every color and ethnicity, to reach their full potential.