Is it right to set different goals for different races and groups?


CNN reports today that civil rights groups and some parents are concerned about states who are setting different achievement goals for different races.  For example, Florida is the most recent state to choose different goals for students of different races: "By 2018, 74% of the state’s African-American students must be proficient in math and reading. That is a lower standard than the state’s white (88%), Hispanic (81%) or Asian students (90%) are expected to reach by the same year." 33 states have waivers and all but 8 of those states have different goals for different races.  There are 11 states with applications for waivers pending which would allow them to abandon the 100% proficiency in math and reading goals for all students set by the original No Child Left Behind law.

One of the reasons that states may set different benchmarks for different races is that the No Child Left Behind federal law mandated that states look at student achievement by race and other subgroups like English Learners so that no group of students who might be lagging in their scores would go unnoticed.  NCLB expected all students and subgroups to be at the same level.

The waiver-allowed new goals prompt many questions: 

  • Should we have different expectations for different groups?
  • Do goals need to be realistic?
  • What is tied to the goals? Tests? Performance pay?  Profit-motives of educational companies?
  • Should we be looking at test scores or practical application of concepts to determine proficiency?
  • What are the causes of achievement gaps between different groups?
  • Are we addressing the causes of the achievement gaps with proficiency goals?
  • How will students feel about these different goals?
  • How will English Learners fare as a subgroup?
  • Are the changes in goals motivating or demotivating? To who? Why?

There are a many more questions we must ask and answer and in the meantime, we must be focused on determining the learning needs of different groups of students in the classroom and meeting them.

(References: Michele McNeil, Education Week, "States Punch Reset Button With NCLB Waivers: Many revise subgroup goals" Published Online: October 15, 2012; in Print: October 17, 2012; John Martin & Nick Valencia, CNN,"A majority of states set different benchmarks by race", October 17th, 2012, 12:54 PM ET)

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen


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