Is mediocrity the new standard for Black students?
Florida adopts race-based academic goals, community in uproar
Carla St.Louis | , Gigi Tinsley | 1/23/2014, 9 a.m.
While many thought Jim Crow politics ended with the Civil Rights movement, the Southern Poverty Law Center alleges otherwise in their most recent complaint against the Florida Department of Education.
The complaint alleges that the Department of Education adopted a discriminatory strategic plan that sets lower academic expectations for Black and Hispanic students based on race and nationality.
The plan is particularly troubling for Miami-Dade County Public School considering it has the largest enrollment of Black and Hispanic youths in the state.
Under these new standards set for math and reading, nearly the entire population of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district--which is more than 90 percent Black and Hispanic--is held to an academic standard far lower than their white and Asian-American counterparts.
A move that has one current student of Florida’s public school system very upset about the state’s lowered expectations for Black youths.
“If the idea of goals based on race isn’t problematic enough, people of color are expected to do worse than any other race,” wrote Ashley Greene, president of the Dream Defenders at Broward College in a letter. “Ironically, there are about 3 million students in Florida’s public school system and of those. Half of these students are African American or Hispanic which paints the picture that even if minorities are the majority in size, they are still the minority in everything else.”
“As an African American student who is full time dually enrolled in both high school and college, race based goals come as a slap in the face,” she said. “It is possible for all students to achieve with proper guidance and dedication.”
Community speaks: ‘Academic measures are racist’
At an educational meeting held on January 9th at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center by the Dream Defenders, community members expressed their outrage over the new measure citing it as “discriminatory.” “Who will protect our youth,” asked Sherika Shaw, regional organizer of the Dream Defenders in regards to the state’s new standard. “It’s time for the community to come together and stand.”
The SPLC encouraged community members to play an active role in combating these measures by contacting the Department of Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org, telling them the plan should be reversed and asking for an investigation against Florida’s Department of Education.
Other attendees echoed the sentiments of the complaint, accusing Florida’s Department of Education of creating a culture of lowered expectations for students of color, a plight the Civil Rights era actively fought to end.
“We have reached a new low in America when we start using children to promulgate discrimination,” said Mack Samuel, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the African Heritage Culture Arts Coalition. “I am very angry and ready to do whatever is needed to stop this foolishness. This is discrimination in living color. It’s 2014, after the civil rights movement, integration and EEO era and we are still being victimized racially by people in power.”
MD-C Public Schools stands with community
The plan sparked commentary from two members of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, both of whom candidly spoke against it.