State of Virgina Sets Lower Pass Rate Expectations for Black Students in New Policy
Virginia is not known for being the most racially-progressive state in America, and a recent modification of its academic standards is not going to help its reputation.
The state has issued new standards of academic achievement that change the success expectation based on the race of the student. The move has irritated the Virginia Black Caucus, which considers the standards to be discriminatory. Sen Mamie Locke is especially outraged.
“Nothing is going to work for me if there is a differentiation being established for different groups of students,” said Locke. “Whether that’s race, socio-economic status or intellectual ability. If there is a differentiation, I have a problem with it.”
Virginia Secretary of Education Laura Fornash has defended the new standards, arguing that students of different ethnic backgrounds are not being held to different standards.
“Please be assured that the McDonnell administration does not hold a student of a particular race or income level, or those of any other subgroup, to a different standard,” Fornash said.
The standards don’t vary by race, but the systematic expectations do. All students are taking the same test, and all need the same score to pass. The concern is that there are different success expectations for various ethnic groups. Only 45 percent of black students are required to pass the math test, while the number is 82 percent for Asians, 68 percent for whites and 52 percent for Hispanics.
The state is justifying the system based on previous pass rates, setting the bar at the level that it’s been reached in the past. Critics are charging that the state is seeking to maintain lower expectations for students of color than other ethnic groups.
Educator Carolyn J. Smith told Pilot Online that the focus should be on boosting performance in under-performing racial groups rather than expecting less.
“The ones in the lower grades, if they don’t feel like they can do math, they’ll give up,” said educator Carolyn Smith. “And some parents say, ‘I can’t do math, either.’”
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