Virginia’s Variable Expectations: Realism or Racism?

The Commonwealth of Virginia, as part of its No Child Left Behind waiver application, recently created controversial Standards of Learning, differing by subgroup: African Americans and Hispanic students, regardless of previous achievement, are placed in subgroups with lower score expectations.

Concerns Regarding Strategy, Message, and Consequences

Anjali Deshpande and Pedro Noguera explain why they find this strategy “dubious”:

By including all blacks or all Hispanics in a Proficiency Gap Group, the Virginia DOE is sending the message that students are only important relative to the racial and ethnic groups to which they belong. This completely ignores the diversity within groups and will make it even more difficult for students to meet the learning needs of the students they serve.

Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist, called the strategy “difficult to distinguish from racism” and said it marks “the quiet overturn of No Child Left Behind.”

Alton C. Strange, author of “Strange Ideas in Education,” wonders “Where is the Outrage?”:

At time when our country needs all children excelling academically to reclaim our position as leader of the global market, we cannot afford to go back and fight another Civil Rights campaign. What are we going to do to put an end to educational Jim Crowism before it begins to spread?
— Strange blog, 10/26/12, cross posted to The Burton Wire


Virginia BOE Responds

The Virginia Board of Education responded:

Do different expectations apply to different students? No. Every public school student in Virginia takes the same SOL [standards of learnign] tests and must achieve the same minimum score to pass the tests. Further, every public school in Virginia has to achieve the same passing rates to be fully accredited — regardless of the demographic makeup of the school. The benchmarks that Gerson attacked are not expectations of individual students but ways of holding schools accountable for improving the passing rate of underperforming groups of students.
— Washington Post, 10/5/12


Education Town Hall Discussion

Pedro Noguera, quoted above, is scheduled to appear on the January 3, 2013 edition of The Education Town Hall. In the next few weeks, the Town Hall will be considering “the achievement gap” and strategies — good, bad, and ugly — to address it. Join the discussion on air and in this forum.

For additional background, here is a review of some research resource on the achievement gap.



Categories: DC-Area Education, defining quality education, equity in education, race and education

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