For example, numerous studies led by Claude Steele, dean of the School of Education at Stanford, have noted a pattern of “stereotype threat” experienced by black students, in which “the unconscious fear of confirming the stereotype (i.e., blacks have inferior intellectual ability) in effect interferes with the student’s actual performance.” Thus, the decision by the board may perpetuate existing stereotypes about different student racial groups in Florida and is likely to have significant psychological impacts on these children’s performance.
The terrible irony of the board’s decision is that, while it proposes to raise all children’s academic achievement levels, the achievement targets leave the racial gaps intact, thus reinforcing in the eye of the public, the children, and their teachers that no matter how they try, black and Hispanic children will be expected to trail behind their white and Asian classmates in a color coded race to the top. Almost 60 years after Brown vs. the Board of Education, is this the best our Board of Education can do?
While we acknowledge that there are numerous systemic issues related to low priority given to the state’s education budget, we feel strongly that setting low expectations is not the answer.
Parents, schools of education, teachers, and administrators throughout Florida need to stand up and respond to this decision. We cannot afford to sit idle. It is not the time for us to have a sideline seat because the educational experience of our kids is at stake!
Elizabeth Harry is the chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning and co-director of Project INCLUDE at the School of Education, University of Miami. Guerda Nicolas is chair of UM’s School of Education and Human Development, Department of Educational and Psychological Studies.