Federal Complaint Against FL for Setting Lower Standards for Students of Color

The standards and accountability movement, to which many politicians subscribe, has had a rough couple weeks, particularly in Florida. Former Florida schools chief Tony Bennett resigned last week after a scandal about his tinkering with school performance statistics. And now, advocates in the state have filed a federal civil rights complaint against the state Department of Education for setting different (and lower) achievement standards for students of color.

In the compliant, advocates from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) argue that by setting lower academic expectations for students of color, the state's academic plan "perpetuates the prejudiced perception that African-American and Hispanic students are less capable than their white and Asian-American peers."

"'The research is clear: Low expectations result in low achievement,' said Jerri Katzerman, SPLC deputy legal director. 'By setting lower expectations for black and Hispanic students, Florida is telling these students that it is their skin color – not their hard work and perseverance – that will determine their success in school. This plan will only widen the achievement gap in Florida classrooms.'

The plan sets a goal of 90 percent of Asian-American students and 88 percent of white students to be reading at grade level by 2018, but only 74 percent of black students and 81 percent of Hispanic students are expected to read at grade level.

The state also sets lower expectations for math with 92 percent of Asian-American students and 86 percent of white students expected to perform at grade level by 2018, but only 74 percent of black students and 80 percent of Hispanic students are expected to perform at grade level. 

Under these standards, almost the entire population of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district – which is more than 90 percent black and Hispanic, and is the state’s most populous school district – is held to an academic standard far lower than districts with large white and Asian-American student populations." 

Read more about the complaint on SPLC's website here.

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