Gov. Rick Scott late today criticized the State Board of Education for adopting its race-based student achievement goals without “clearly” articulating “our shared commitment to fully close that achievement gap for all students, regardless of race, geography, gender or other circumstance. ”
Scott urged the board to “clearly and sincerely acknowledge that all students are capable of performing at grade level regardless of their race or background and that our ultimate goal is to ensure there is no achievement gap in Florida’s education system.”
The achievement targets were embedded in the board’s strategic plan, which it adopted Tuesday and have since then caused controversy, as similar race-based targets did in Virginia and Washington, D.C. this summer.
In his message, Scott did not seem to be saying the targets themselves were wrong, but that the reason for them should have been explained better. He restated his belief in measuring student progress to ensure ”the highest level of accountability.”
About 30 minutes before Scott released his statement, Gary Chartrand, the State Board’s chairman and a Scott appointee, issued his own statement. In it he reiterated that the board was not setting lower standards for some groups of kids but was acknowledging “different starting points” and working toward a plan where all children would be at grade level in reading and math.
“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,” he said.
The board decided last week to make part, as part of its goals, a note that its overall objective was to help get all students at a “proficient” level, he added.
It’s not clear yet if the board will revise that note — and beef up that language — as officials at the Florida Department of Education received the Governor’s comments only late today.