Thursday, October 3, 2013
Earlier this year, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a two track diploma system into law: one for students heading to college and others who are not, but hopefully heading into work. The obvious hope is to do a better job of making high school graduates career ready. Some believe this will also help some kids who might otherwise drop-out stay in school. On the one hand, I credit Florida for taking steps to doing what other states are loath to do: deliver quality vocational programs. States resist because it suggests they are lowering standards and giving up on students. But as one of my former students, Nina Frant, compellingly argued in The Inadequate Resume of School Education Plans, 51 How. L.J. 819 (2008), many school finance decisions articulating the state's obligation to deliver an adequate education focus equally on college and career readiness. Yet, the response of almost all education systems has been solely in regard to college readiness. The practical result, she argues, is that schools do a disservice to and forget about students who are not going to college. If Florida really intends to serve these otherwise ignored students, it deserves credit for taking on this issue.
On the other hand, separate tracks have long since been a mechanism through which bias and inequality operate. Individual school administrators' perceptions of who is and is not college material can be as much, if not more, a function of the administrator's bias as the student's ability. The result is stark racial imbalance in the tracks. If Florida is serious about improving education through its dual track education, it must be equally serious about eradicating the biases that will surely affect it.