Sunday, August 4, 2013

Complaint Challenges "Soft Bigotry" of Lowered Expectations for Florida's Latino and Black Students


Page from FL Bd. of Educ.'s Strategic Plan
On Friday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a complaint with the Justice Department charging that Florida's educational reform plan lowers academic targets for Latinos and blacks. Florida received a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2012 that allowed the state to form its own plan for charting academic achievement. Rather than meeting NCLB's waiver requirements by developing a race-neutral plan, the complaint charges that Florida's plan sets "widely differing academic achievement goals for students based on race and national origin." Complaint at 3, R.B., et al. v. Florida Dep't of Education (filed Aug. 2, 2013). Below is an excerpt from the complaint that describes the race-weighted goals in Florida's State Board of Education's Strategic Plan (2012-2018):


As to reading, the plan sets the expectation that 90% of Asian-American children and 88% of white children will read at grade level by 2018, alongside the expectation that only 81 % of Hispanic children and 74% of African-American children will do so. As to math, the plan sets the expectation that 92% of Asian-American children and 86% of white children will reach grade level by 2018; in contrast, Florida expects only 80% of Hispanic children and 74% of African-American children to do so. Rather than promote equal educational achievement for all, Florida set alarmingly different goals for children of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Florida's scheme sets severely lower expectations for African-American and Hispanic students, instead of marshaling its resources to ensure educational equality.

Complaint at 4. The complaint argues that "Florida's plan will fail an entire generation of students of color, limiting their educational aspirations by their race or national origin." SPLC's complaint, filed jointly with the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, is available here.


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