This summer Kaitlyn Delaney interned at Chalkboard Project between her junior and senior year at a Florida State University teacher preparation program. As a blogger for ChalkBloggers, she decided to write about one of the most pertinent and contentious reform platforms in Florida—K-12 school grades. (You can find the blog posts, here and here.)
A quick summary: Florida school grades measure the overall performance of schools each year on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The grades are calculated by adding points earned from three criteria: 1) the overall performance on the FCAT, 2) the percentage of eligible students who took the test, and 3) whether or not students made progress in reading and math. Each school is assigned a letter grade (A-F). The better grade a school receives, the more per-pupil additional funding the school receives the next year.
The most recent academic year brought along changes to the FCAT scoring. Education Commissioner Gerald Robinson believed that Florida schools would improve when asked to, so standards were increased—most notably in the writing component exam. However, when the scores were released this summer, they were much worse and people immediately feared the financial strain put on Florida schools.
What is left is an attempt to make sure that schools are still receiving adequate funding and are still accountable for student scores. But, the Florida Department of Education has recently released a plan that gives me pause.
According to reports released on October 10th, the Florida Department of Education will soon judge the achievement of public school students in part by race and ethnicity in an attempt to help close the achievement gap. The plan, approved on Tuesday, October 9th, calls for,
- 90% of Asian students to be at or above grade level in reading by 2018,
- 88% of white students,
- 81% of Hispanic students, and
- 74% of black students.
Math proficiency levels are also broken down by racial groups:
- 92% of Asian students scoring at or above grade level,
- 86% of white students,
- 80% of Hispanic students, and
- 74% of black students.
I’ve tried to push aside all the red flags going off in my brain to try to find the reasoning behind my Department of Education’s plan. Yes, the majority of the schools falling behind have a persistent racial achievement gap. This would level out the funding schools receive, but does it not also tell schools that students do not have to achieve at the same level? If there is a timeline for this plan, it has not been released yet. I am worried (very, very worried) that this may help students in the short-term, but end up establishing a culture of racist standards for achievement in the long run.
What do you think?