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Gov. Scott reacts to race-based education goals for Florida students

3:41 PM, Oct 18, 2012   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida - Florida's State Board of Education is suddenly a national lightning rod because of its controversial new education plan setting goals for students based in part on their race.

The board has adopted a strategic plan that includes goals for subgroups of students.

The plan says 90 percent of Asian students should read at grade level by 2018, while the targets are set at 88 percent for white students, 81 percent for Hispanics and 74 percent for black students. Similar goals are set for those racial groups in math.

Critics say setting lower goals for black and Hispanic students is insulting and sends a wrong message that they're not as capable.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart defends the goals, saying they will help eliminate the achievement gap that exists between subgroups of students.

Gov. Rick Scott is calling on the board to rework the education plan so it clearly states that all students can perform well regardless of their race or background.

But when Scott was pressed by reporters Thursday on whether he specifically wants the board to remove the race-based goals, he would not endorse that idea.

"I want them to focus on, how do we make sure every child is proficient. I've been governor for 21 months and I travel the state. I have not met one student who doesn't say, 'Look, I'd like to do well in school. I'd like to be able to get a job.' We know all students can learn. We know all students can become proficient so our job is to create a system that 100 percent of the students are proficient."

A reporter followed up: "Could you be more specific? Do you want them to change the standards broken down by race or not?"

Scott replied: "What I want the Board of Education to do is exactly what I'm doing. Focus on making sure every child is proficient. The goal is 100 percent of the children are proficient in the areas that we care about."

Florida is required by the federal government to keep track of how students perform based on their race and background.

That information shows 76 percent of Asians are reading at grade level, while the percentage is 69 percent among white students, 53 percent among Hispanics and 38 percent among black students.

Dave Heller

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