Gov. Rick Scott called Tuesday for the State Board of Education to overhaul its strategic plan, inserting himself into the racially-charged debate over how much should be expected of students from different groups, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
“The actions taken last week by the State Board of Education in adopting their strategic plan did not clearly articulate our shared commitment to fully close that achievement gap for all students, regardless of race, geography, gender or other circumstance,” Scott said in a statement issued by his office late Tuesday.
Scott contended that all students can perform at grade level, and the state should strive to get rid of the achievement gap between students of different ethnic and racial groups.
“With this in mind, I would ask the board to more completely incorporate this recognition into its strategic plan so that we can focus our efforts on helping every student to achieve the highest level of success,” Scott said.
The governor publicly distanced himself from the plan little more than a half-hour after Gary Chartrand, the chairman of the State Board of Education, issued his own statement as the agency tries to manage the fallout from the plan.
The department’s blueprint has stoked outrage over its “interim goals” for students in each group during the 2017-18 school year, with the final goal five years later being for all groups to have 100 percent of students testing at grade level.
For example, the department would aim for 86 percent of white students testing at a proficient level by 2017-18 in math, but for 74 percent of black students to be at that level. The goal for white students in English and language arts would be 88 percent; it would be 81 percent for black students and 78 percent for low-income students.
“We have to acknowledge that there are different starting points among groups of students today,” Chartrand said. “We can only close the achievement gap in Florida if we are willing to have an honest conversation about what it will take to get all students to that level of success.”
Currently, according to the department, 68 percent of white students and 40 percent of black students test at a proficient level in math, while 69 percent of white students and 38 percent of black students are deemed proficient in English and language arts.
“To be clear, the interim targets will not determine our success; the absence of an achievement gap will,” Chartrand said.
Incoming House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, applauded Scott’s comments in a statement issued late Tuesday.
“I am hopeful that the Board of Education will recraft the plan so that it seeks improved student performance across the board instead of one based on race and ethnicity,” Thurston said. “As I致e stated before, it is simply wrong to imply that one race is academically inferior to another.”