Florida Race-Based Standards Prompt Complaint

Florida education officials are being challenged on their plan to evaluate Latino and black students based on much lower math and reading achievement goals than those set for white and Asian students.

Educators have long advocated for judging students based on growth, rather than a set cut score. A significant achievement gap still persists. But does that mean standards should be set lower for black and Hispanic children as a result?

When the standards were approved last October, a Florida Department of Education spokesperson said that officials felt they needed to take into account the groups’ “starting point.” The goals are set to go into effect in the 2013-14 school year.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday against the state’s race-based plan.

“The research is clear: Low expectations result in low achievement,” said Jerri Katzerman, SPLC deputy legal director, in a news release. “By setting lower expectations for black and Hispanic students, Florida is telling these students that it is their skin color – not their hard work and perseverance – that will determine their success in school. This plan will only widen the achievement gap in Florida classrooms.”

In reading, the passing goals set by 2018 are 74 percent for black students, 81 percent for Hispanic students, 88 percent for white students and 90 percent for Asian students. In math, the goals are 74 percent for black students, 80 percent for Hispanic students, 86 percent for white students and 92 percent for Asian students.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that one of the parties to the complaint, 14-year-old Robert Burns, who is black and has excelled on state exams, believes the goals should be 100 percent for all students.

“If you expect 60, I’ll give you 60. If you shoot for the moon, I’ll land on the stars,” he told the newspaper. “I’m more than what statistics or Florida thinks of me. When I found out they were going to set lower standards for me based on the color of my skin, I felt devastated. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s right.”

The 100 percent proficiency goal cited by Robert has been viewed as the hallmark of No Child Left Behind. Indeed , the complaint cites former President George W. Bush’s now famous quote condemning the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

However, Florida has performed well on performance standards with its Hispanic students. For example, an evaluation of student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that Florida students were strong-performers, when compared with students from other large states.

Additionally, a report from the National Center for Education Statistics also recently found that the Latino high school graduation rate was about 72 percent in Florida in 2010.

Related Links:

– “SPLC Files Complaint WIth DOJ Over Florida’s Race-Based Education Goals,” Orlando Sentinel.

– “Florida’s Race-Based Education Goals Discriminate, Complaint Alleges,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

– “Civil Rights Complaint Lodged Against Florida’s Student Achievement Plan,” Southern Poverty Law Center. 

– “Florida Sets Lower Achievement Goals for Latinos Than White Students,” Latino Ed Beat.

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Florida Scholarship Changes Could Hurt Latino Students

A Florida scholarship program known as Bright Futures may soon no longer have such a sunny reputation.

Recently announced eligibility requirement changes mean that significantly fewer Latino and black students will qualify for assistance. The required minimum GPA of 3.0 will remain the same.

State Impact reports that students graduating in the spring of 2014 would have to score at least a 1170 on the SAT or 26 on the ACT. Students now must score 1020 on the SAT or 22 on the ACT.

The Florida College Access Network is pushing for scholarship eligibility requirements that don’t rely so heavily on standardized test scores, but instead will forgive lower scores if a student’s grade point average is high–and vice versa. The group also wants income to be a factor.

An analysis by the University of South Florida obtained by the access network found that 87% of Latino freshmen at state universities entering between summer/fall 2010 and summer/fall 2011 met the standards, but just 35%would qualify under the new requirements.

Additionally, between 7,000 -7,500 Hispanic freshmen met criteria for Bright Futures for Fall 2012, only between 2,700- 3,000 students would meet the new criteria set for Fall 2014, a drop of more than 60%.

Meanwhile University of Florida President Bernie Machen wrote an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times supporting the changes, saying that they would help keep the program solid financial and able to continue.

“When the Florida Legislature created the Bright Futures scholarship in 1997, lawmakers never intended the program to help students based on their racial status or family income,” Machen wrote. “Rather, the scholarship had only one purpose: to provide a financial incentive for Florida’s most academically talented students to attend the state’s public universities, raising the quality of their experience in college and improving our universities as a whole.”

He argues that minority and low-income students can be assisted through other programs. He cited the Florida Opportunity Scholars, which covers tuition and board for students first in their family to attend college and coming from homes earning less than $40,000 a year.

Meanwhile Florida College Access Network executive director Braulio Colon expressed that Bright Futures should offer access to more students.

“We believe all students can rise and meet high academic standards,” Colon said, and State Impact reported. “But the current scheduled increase in eligibility requirements for this important scholarship program is a dramatic jump that jeopardizes access for thousands of college-going students and relies too heavily on standardized test scores for measuring academic merit.”

State Rep. Ricardo Rangel, a Democrat, has filed a bill that would keep the standards the same, but The Miami Herald reports that it seems unlikely to pass. He relates because he learned English as a second language (his parents were immigrants from Ecuador) and struggled with the SAT–but went on to earn a master’s degree.

But Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, a Republican who is chair of the higher education panel, agreed with the changes.

“Are we going to say that Hispanic students can’t measure up?” the Miami Herald reported.

Related Links:

– “Change to Bright Futures scholarships hits poor, minorities,” The Miami Herald. 

– “More than Half of Black and Hispanic Students Will No Longer Qualify for Bright Futures Scholarships,” State Impact/NPR.

– “Column: Making futures

– “Number of Bright Futures scholarships awarded to Hispanic university students expected to drop by over 60%,” Florida College Access Network.

– Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program

Latino Test Performance Varies Significantly by State

It’s often said that the zip code a child is born into is a strong predictor of their future academic performance and the quality of education that they will receive. But perhaps the same can be said about the state where a child is born.

The New York Times recently reported on an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics of the five states with the largest populations, showing the different performance levels of Latino students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.

Those “mega-states” studied are California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. Th five states enroll more than half of the country’s English language learners, a total of 2.9 million–nearly 1.5 million of whom are in California. They also enroll about 40 percent of the nation’s public school students, or 18.7 million students.

NAEP scores are seen as the best tool by which to compare academic performance across state lines.

One notable headline: California Latino students struggled considerably across the board, while Florida and Texas were strong-performers. While the analysis also shows that Latino students continue to lag white students considerably in performance on the tests (full report here), there was considerable variation in Latino performance between states.

The percentage of Latino eighth-graders performing at the proficient level or above in math in 2011 are below, with Texas leading the nation:

California: 13%, Florida: 22%; Illinois: 19%; New York: 13%; Texas: 31%; Nation: 20%.

And the performance of Latino eighth-graders proficient or higher in reading in 2011, in which Florida and Illinois led the nation:

California: 14%; Florida: 27%; Illinois: 23%; New York: 20%; Texas: 17%; Nation: 18%.

The performance of fourth-graders proficient or higher in math, in which Florida and Texas leading:

California: 17%; Florida: 31%; Illinois: 20%; New York: 20%; Texas: 29%. Nation: 24%.

The performance of  Latino fourth-graders proficient or higher in reading was as follows in 2011, with Florida leading:

California: 12%;  Florida: 30%Illinois: 18%; New York: 20%; Texas: 19%; Nation: 18%.

And here is the performance of Latino fourth-graders proficient or higher in science in 2009, with Texas and Florida leading:

California: 8%; Florida: 23%; Illinois: 10%; New York: 13%; Texas: 16%; Nation: 13%

And the performance of Latino eighth-graders proficient or higher in science, with Texas leading the nation:

California: 11%; Florida: 24%; Illinois: 11%; New York: 12%; Texas: 23%; Nation: 16%.

Jack Buckley, commissioner of the NCES, said there was no “consistent pattern among these states,” The Times reported. And that, “each state seems to have areas where it shines and others where they lag behind its counterparts.”

The analysis includes the data broken out by other racial/ethnic categories and factors such as income and ELL status.

Learn more about the analysis of performance in the top five largest states here.

Related Links:

– “Test Scores of Hispanics Vary Widely Across 5 Most Populous States, Analysis Shows,” The New York Times. 

– Mega-States: An Analysis of Student Performance in the Five Most Heavily Populated States in the Nation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fla. Sets Lower Achievement Goals for Latinos than White Students

There’s no question that an achievement gap still exists between white and Hispanic students. But does that mean goals for Latino students should differ from those set for white students?

The Florida State Board of Education recently set goals for black and Latino students that are lower than those set for white and Asian students. That decision — to set academic proficiency goals that differ by race and ethnicity —  is stirring controversy, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Officials set benchmarks for the percentages of students they want to be at or above their math grade level by 2018:  74 percent of blacks, 80 percent of Hispanics, 86 percent of white students and 92 percent of Asian students.

They set similar goals for students to be at or above reading at grade level: 74 percent of blacks, 81 percent of Hispanics, 88 percent of whites and 90 percent of Asian students. The paper reports that currently only 53 percent of Hispanic students are reading at grade level, compared with 69 percent of white students.

Goals are also set lower for English language learners.

The differences in goals prompted officials from the Urban League to criticize the race-based goals. But state officials say they are useful.

“Of course we do want every student to be successful,” Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters told the newspaper. “But we do have to take into account their starting point.”

The Daily Record reports that some board members expressed concern before the goals were voted on.

“If Asians can have a goal of 90 percent in reading, why can’t whites, and other subcategories?” the paper reported member John Padget as saying. “So I would just ask my fellow board members if we are happy with the signal this sends.”

Related Links:

“Florida public school students will be judged in part by race and ethnicity.” South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“Fla. education board OKs race-based academic plan.” Daily Record.