I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bar Lowering for Political Expediency

The Florida State Board of Education has adopted a strategic plan (page 11 of this document) that sets differing achievement standards for different students based upon their race for the next 10 year period.
The highest expectations are for Asians, the next highest for Whites, the next highest for Hispanics, and the lowest bar is being set for African Americans.  (Ironic that these tiered-based expectations in the Florida plan mirror the average achievement-gap composition and  race-placement tier in Florida.  Wow, what a coincidence, right?)
Talk about lowered expectations leading to self-fulfilling prophecy! 
I cannot and do not see this as anything but policymakers waving a white flag and giving up, which is weak! 
But the cynical side of me sees this move by the Florida BOE  as a much more nefarious vehicle, a way for Florida to get a “participation-trophy” for “trying” to comply with NCLB--like some pee-wee athletic league doles out to all “participants”—regardless of whether or not such players can even play the sport!
This is the equivalent of parents joining hands overhead and “building a tunnel” for the tykes to run through after the 5 year-old soccer game that always ends in a draw.  Sad.
NCLB was flawed, yes.  The goals were unachievable, yes.  But the goals were noble and this law was moving us all forward.  Now, via waivers, presidential proclamations, state level machinations, and executive orders, this law is being gutted and skinned like a catfish nailed to a tree.  It not only upsets me—it disgusts me.  I’m convinced that Ted Kennedy, liberal as he was, would be sickened by this devolution.  He crafted the bipartisan NCLB along with George W. Bush.
I’m appalled by this development and I can’t think of any good reason to lower the bar in such a flagrant manner.  Since this Florida plan was first made public on October 11th, a firestorm of negative stories on the issue has been forthcoming.  Imagine what the Hispanic and African American communities must think of these lowered expectations??---“the soft bigotry of lowered expectations” as George Bush famously said.
I  strongly believe that we need to have ONE Standard in each area of curriculu for all students to meet, and we need to help students that struggle, regardless of their race, achieve the same ONE Standard.  Educational innovators know that lowering the bar is a horrible strategy that serves nobody well-maybe that’s why policymaker politicians, by and large, do not take these innovators' advice?
Lowering the bar for some races and keeping it high for others is just plain wrong, and is only being done for the sake of political expediency.
I never thought getting a waiver from the strict provisions of NCLB was a great idea, but Florida did this; now, those that have proposed these GARBAGE IDEAS about race-based achievement level targets are pointing at the Florida NCLB Waiver as the reason necessitating differing standards.  What a cop-out.  Do a rain dance, then blame someone else about getting wet when the sky opens up.
Florida citizens---Shake hands and make friends with this reality—Education is being dumbed down in stunning fashion right before your eyes.   Students are being boxed and stereotyped, and politicians are willingly accepting this.…And we, at the local level, are making it easy for them by standing idly by, saying nothing and doing nothing in total complicit complacency. 
I won’t be a part of that crowd-I know this is wrong and I’m going to say so!
To the State Board of Education—Change this badly flawed strategic plan, keep ONE Standard for ALL Students, and most importantly do not lend creedence to Bush's “soft bigotry of lowered expectations!”


Alice Sohn said...

Jeff, I disagreed with the waiver also, but the waiver is not responsible for our pathetic performance with our low-achieving students; we are. Also, how, exactly, do the goals for improvement "lower" expectations? In fact, the goals for improvement ask for more from our "low-achievers" than from other students. For example, Asian students need improve only 14 percentage points and white students only 19 points. Black students, however, have a goal of 36 points and ED students 32 points. I don't think that "document" is worth the bandwidth it consumes!!

Jeff Bergosh said...

The idea that we're stereotyping these kids is what bothers me most, along with the institutional acceptance of this as a goal among the education "establishment" types. Imagine the slippery slope, of telling a kid not as much is expected of him or her due to their ethnicity. It simply goes against everything we've been striving to accomplish with respect to equality and equal expectations. What comes next: Behavior guidelines based upon ethnicity ? Imagine if that was set as the benchmark and students of different ethnicities were punished differently and given differing punishment guidelines because of expectations, historical quotas, data analysis and "..where they are starting from..." It wouldn't be accepted, neither should this strategic plan. This plan is flawed.

Alice Sohn said...

Too late! Every "accountability" report since the NCLB legislation was enacted (2002)has reported data from students according to their race and their economic" situation." The only positive result of NCLB has been to highlight the appalling gap between races and economic "levels."
The gap does not exist because of differences in intelligence. It exists for the reason I've discussed before--"dumping" most of these students in what is laughingly called a "regular" class.
In the ten years of school "grades," poor and minority students have consistently lagged behind. What would you do now, Jeff? Should we give every student a goal of 100%, even though we don't give them equal instruction.
Perhaps you believe in "high expectations," a phrase commonly misunderstood. "High expectations" des not mean set an impossible goal for the students. Once we set the standards, we have an obligation to provide the resources students need to meet the goals. Considering the inexperienced teachers, the less effective methods of instruction, and the less time for instruction we offer these students, how could we, morally and ethically, justify setting the same goals?
If you remember, when NCLB was enacted, the goal was that 100% of students be 100% proficient in reading and math by 2013. How could any intelligent person possibly believe the goal was realistic.
By the way, ESE students, now being mainstreamed (oh, excuse me, in all but honors courses) can violate codes of conduct and receive a lesser penalty than their peers in the same classroom--ESE students are protected by law.
None of this matters anyway. The NCBL is a sick joke, and, I'm beginning to think, so are our schools.