Analyzing student performance by race and ethnicity is not new.
Under 2002s No Child Left Behind federal law, K-12 schools have been reporting how different subgroups of students are performing. That law has a 100 percent goal for all students to be at grade level by 2014. In Florida, student subgroups have improved in reading by 10 percentage points or more from 2002-03 to 2010-11.
But Florida has failed to meet the overall goal, so it, like many other states, is seeking a waiver to avoid penalties.
Stewart said the race-based goals are necessary for that waiver.
The goals are separate from the states accountability system of school grades. And the plan includes no directives for how to meet the goals at the district and school level.
Board of Education Vice Chairman Roberto Martinez said the state is simply facing reality in its plan, as opposed to pretending 100 percent across all groups can be quickly achieved. He said its not about different expectations, but recognizing where students levels are at and working to close the gaps.
We can say 100 percent proficient and theres no distinction among subgroups, Martinez said. That would make us all feel very good. We can pat ourselves on the back ...but that would be phony. It would be a false projection.
Martinez once served as general counsel to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. As part of his overhaul of the states education system, Bush vowed to eliminate the soft bigotry of low expectations for some students.
Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the new plan ignores the fact that the method of testing students is about to fundamentally change. Carvalho called it unthinkable to set targets for 2017-18 when Florida will have a new national standardized test in two years, and even with the current, still-new FCAT 2.0, there is not enough data to project forward.
While these targets comply with the federal waiver requirements, the optics of establishing targets by race and other subgroups defies the universal and undisputed fact that all students can perform academically, Carvalho said.
State Rep. Dwight Bullard, who is also a teacher, said the plan offered separate but equal goals and the state education administrators should work to close the opportunity gap for students to learn.