Guest Post - Paul Kivel - "Expectations Lower for Students of Color" Declares Florida Board of Education Policy

by: EJ on 10/18/2012
Posted in: Guest Posts

Paul Kivel, author of Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice, responds to the recently announced policy statement from the Florida Board of Education. Although this story broke on  a Tampa CBS station, a little research shows that the policy is not new, only updated.  The Florida State Board of Education's Strategic Plan for 2012-2018 compares the current expectations for racial groups with new ones.


This week the Florida State Board of Education passed a plan for racially-based academic goals for its students, allowing it to qualify for federal funding while opting out of specific No Child Left Behind requirements. Unfortunately, the racially-based goals have decidedly higher standards for white and Asian students than for those who are Hispanic and African American. Not surprisingly, Black and Hispanic parents are outraged. Florida school officials are declaring as public policy what many have long known to be reduced expectations for their children as evidenced by lower investment in schools, teachers, and support services in low income, and majority student-of-color schools .

            We live in a period of more overt racism directed at Muslims, immigrants of color, President Obama, and Latino and African American school children. As I document in my book, Uprooting Racism, many students of color face a variety of racial and economic barriers to success in schools, including the very tests that are supposed to gauge their achievement level.  The State of Florida has shown little effort to address the roots of these disparities, much less appropriate the resources needed to address them. Instead, this current set of goals is an acknowledgment that they are willing to accept the disparities rather than address their cause. We cannot settle for less than the highest expectations for our young people. But beyond our expectations, we should challenge policies like Florida’s and demand the resources that would allow all students to reach their highest potential. 


Racism is increasingly widespread in our communities, and often, we subscribe to racist thoughts without even realizing it.  Uprooting Racism is full of excellent tools such as a list of racially charged words, checklists for identifying white privilege and costs of racism, lists of questions and actions to guide group discussions. If we are serious about addressing racism, we first need to understand what it is, how it operates and how to effectively work together in our communities. 



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