Florida Department of Education not backing down from student race-based success

2:29 PM, Oct 12, 2012   |    comments
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 PDF Document: 121011083045 BOEplan

Jacksonville, Florida (WTLV) -- Damage control is under way from the Florida Department of Education after their strategic vision for 2018 outlined a student's race as an indicator of success.

"All students can learn and should reach proficiency, so that's the goal," said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart

But on what timeline?

The statistics laid out by the Department of Education set race-based goals for math and reading by 2018. Here are the reading numbers:

Ninety percent of Asian students are expected to be reading at grade level, but only 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanic students, and 74 percent of black students are expected to do the same.

READ: Florida State Board of Education's strategic plan (PDF)

Stewart says improving public education in the state will take time, and the Department of Education's strategic vision doesn't necessarily reflect how much. The just-released roadmap lays out the state's goals through 2018, which may not be long enough.

"None of our students are going to reach proficiency, none of our subgroups, none of our categories," she said.  

Stewart said if the strategic vision was extended to 2023, every student -- regardless of race -- would be at 100 percent proficiency.

"We feel it's very important to have these goals, to draw attention to where each of our subgroups are, so parents, and schools, and teachers can all focus on where we are, and where we need to be eventually," she said.  

But setting different race-based expectations for students set off a firestorm in the state and the legislature.

The Democratic caucus called for a complete rewrite of the DoE's strategic plan, and in a statement said in part:

"An appropriate vision should focus on improving student performance across the board instead of one based on race and ethnicity," said Rep. Perry Thurston. "It is inappropriate to suggest, as the Board of Education has implied, that one race is academically inferior to another."

But Commissioner Stewart stood by the report and says by 2023, we'll be looking at a much different landscape in public education.

"What we measure is what improves, so if we want to focus on that and improve, it's important for us to pull that data out and in doing it we will close that achievement gap," said Stewart.

If you want to let the Department of Education know how you feel about the new Strategic Vision, their phone number is (850) 245-0505.

Email: Commissioner@fldoe.org

Address: Turlington Building, Suite 1514
325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399

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