Florida education commissioner continues damage control on race-based academic goals
With the public backlash growing over Florida's new race-based academic goals, interim education commissioner Pam Stewart has sent a letter to superintendents (attached below) explaining the state's position on the growing controversy.
"Our vision and mission is to ensure 100 percent of students achieve at or above grade level. The overall vision of the Board, stated clearly in the plan, is that Florida have a world-class education system that engages and prepares all students to be globally competitive for college and careers. This means 100 percent of students scoring at or above grade level in the core subject areas," wrote Stewart, who also defended the plan to reporters on Thursday.
She further explained:
"The Board determined it was important to know how students are performing in each subgroup since they examined current data that shows an unacceptable student achievement gap. While the six-year target proficiency levels are aggressive, they reflect acknowledgement by the Board that none of the demographic subgroups will achieve 100 percent proficiency by the end of this period; however, the Board continues to move forward each year with its strategic plan and the gap will be reduced until all subgroups are on grade level by 2022. The State Board set higher expectations for the rate of growth in proficiency levels for those subgroups with the lowest percentages of students currently performing at grade level."
It is also instructive to note that the decision to include these subgroup goals come from the Obama administration's No Child Left Behind waiver application (attached below). The first permissible waiver request is to get out of meeting federal Adequate Yearly Progress requirements, with the understanding that the state would "develop new ambitious but achievable (annual measurable objectives) in reading/language arts and mathematics in order to provide meaningful goals that are used to guide support and improvement efforts for the State, LEAs, schools, and student subgroups."
Florida's plan, fully vetted by the U.S. Department of Education more than a year ago, states: "The annual achievement results on assessments will continue to be reported for subgroups and all students. Florida’s new AMOs will be reported for all schools, LEAs, and the state."
While the goals may be distasteful to some, they shouldn't come as a surprise.