Students, Activists Protest Race-Based Testing Goals in Florida

In October of 2012, Florida established race-based reading and math goals for students. The goals withstood a complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center with the Department of Justice stating that the race-based education goals for minority students violates civil rights law, reports Lauren Roth for the Orlando Sentinel, and the state is beginning to see how the goals are playing out.

Now having completed the first school year with the goals in effect, more people are speaking up about the issue. The goals are currently set so that by 2018, 90% of Asian-American students and 88% of white students are reading at grade level versus 81% of Hispanic students and only 74% of African-American students.

In math, the goal of passing students is set at 92% for Asian Americans, 86% for white students, 80% for Hispanic students and 74% for African-American students.

Sammy Mack, an NPR reporter, sat down with high school students and discussed how they felt the race-based goals affected their experience in the classroom, reports WJCT News.

Spencer, an African American graduate of Atlantic Community High School in Boca Raton expresses his disdain for the race-based goals in a school where he is primarily surrounded by Jewish and Caucasian cultures:

 “I think it’s terrible. They’re only aiming for a certain amount of students passing. They should teach in order to have everyone pass these examinations and also it leads to self-fulfilling prophecies.”

Adriana, a Hispanic student who also recently graduated from Atlantic Community High School, explains how these goals don’t simply impact the way the student see themselves, but also how the teachers see them:

“Even the teachers, when they see these statistics they start thinking, ‘Oh this kid is going to do worse’ … instead of seeing how everyone has that potential to pass. And I think it affects they way that they teach, how they act with other people, how they answer kids’ questions … They do that subconsciously and it isn’t giving equality to all the kids.”

The race-based goals were a result of a waiver that Florida received for having hit benchmarks set in the No Child Left Behind Act, which passed during the George W. Bush administration. The waiver allowed Florida education officials to craft a plan to improve academic achievement, reports the Miami Herald.

The goals are supposed to climb to 100% proficiency for every student in 2022, but for students and civil rights activists that date isn’t soon enough for things to change. They are asking Governor Rick Scott to hold Hispanic and African-American students to a higher standard today, reports Sammy Mack for State Impact Florida.

Supporters of the race-based goals believe that Hispanic and African-American students will work harder by making the gap between their current level and the goal smaller. Students couldn’t feel more opposed to the standards set for them.

“I see no reason for Florida to set lower goals for me,” said Robert Burns, a 14-year-old Miami-Dade student, who attended the news conference. “I feel as though the color of my skin should not or will not determine my future.”