Virginia Lowers Expectations for Black and Latino Students

Virginia is one of dozens states exempt from the national No Child Left Behind laws, which aims to have all American children perform at grade level by 2014. The state has therefore created educational performance goals for students that make much more sense.

It’s now setting goals for kids based on their race.

In other words, I’M SO MUCH BETTER AT MATH THAN YOU ARE #modelminorityFTW!

While passing grades will remain the same for any individual student — for example, a 60 percent score is a passing whether you’re black or white — the state has set achievement goals for students in the state differently according to whether they are Asian, Caucasian, Latino, Black, or Disabled. In other words, Virginia hopes to have a certain percentage of Asian students pass standard reading tests, while it hopes to have a lower percentage of Latino students pass reading tests.

And yes. Virginia considers being disabled akin to being a specific race. Or maybe, being a specific race is the equivalent of being disabled? Still working that one out.

Anyways, let’s look at the numbers, because I’m Asian, and I like math.

Virginia’s new goals for students to meet in math, according to race:

Asians: 82 percent

Whites: 68 percent

Latinos: 52 percent

Blacks: 45 percent

Disabled: 33 percent

Parents aren’t pleased, naturally. But the line of reasoning, according to Dr. Patricia Wright, Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction, is that Black and Latino students generally don’t perform as well as white and Asian students. So by lowering expectations, those children can “catch up,” she told NPR. Earlier this fall, Wright noted at a Board of Education meeting that “all of us hold all students to the same academic standards, but when it comes to measuring progress, we have to consider that students start at different points.”

Because systematizing racism, particularly when it comes to the learning potential and achievement of America’s youth, is the pragmatic thing to do.

You know, because when it comes to progress, you may as well be realistic about those people.

Join the Conversation

  • unequivocal

    In other words, Virginia hopes to have a certain percentage of Asian students pass standard reading tests, while it hopes to have a lower percentage of Latino students pass reading tests.

    This doesn’t seem to be what the article says. The article actually specifically states that the required score to pass a test will vary by race. So they aren’t saying that they expect 82% of Asians and 45% of Blacks to score 60% or higher (which would be bizarre and problematic enough), they are saying that a passing score is 82% for Asians and 45% for Blacks.

    I’m hoping that the article actually got its facts wrong; this is utterly ridiculous.

  • Sam Lindsay-Levine

    The headline certainly sounds very bad but this is tripping my surely-it’s-more-complicated-than-that alarm (and maybe even my “don’t-see-race” Colbert alarm).

    We currently live in a country where these sub-populations, sadly, do have very different test passing rates. These new goals are clearly not applied on an individual basis – each student still has the same bar for passing – these are goals for the system, not the student to reach.

    Suppose that currently, only 40% of black students in Virginia public schools are passing and 65% of white students are. What goals should Virginia set for the upcoming year to try to remedy this situation and close the gap? I think we would all agree they should not ignore the current situation, or stop gathering data analysable by sub-population.

    What do you think should have been done instead of this? Should Virginia’s school system simply have abandoned the concept of setting achievable short-term goals?

  • Becca

    Wow, Feministing. Great reporting.

    What you failed to mention here is the HUGE difference between Northern Virginia/Chesapeake schools and the rest of the state and the levels of diversity between the two regions. What you failed to mention are the statistics released by the VDOE that show how students perform on standardized testing based on race and the HUGE gap. What you failed to mention is the effect of poverty on a student’s academic performance and the statistics that show the breakdown in race. I’m in Special Education here in Virginia and my school recently released the breakdown of students who graduate based on race and I can tell you- white kids graduate on time more than any other race in the school. This isn’t racism. This is fact. It’s a very, very sad truth and it’s my job to catch those kids and help them.

    NOVA has more money and their schools are generally better equipped to handle at-risk students. I’m not saying that students who are potentially in danger of failing are all non-white students. What I’m saying is that students who live in rich, predominately white suburbs are less likely to fail standardized testing than a student of Latino descent who has Spanish speaking parents at home and learned English as a second language. The same goes for white students who live in a less influential county- more likely to fail. The statistics show that students of different races perform differently because of the culture they live in. It’s not a race war. If anything, it’s a tool that schools can use to help break the cycle of poverty in ALL races beginning with the ones that need it most.

    Do your research.

  • honeybee

    Although it seems odd at first – if you look at the CURRENT percentages for children amongst these different groups, you would see vastly different numbers.

    So doesn’t it make sense to allocate goals based on improving by % percent? But if your current disabled percent is 10% and your current Asian percentage is 75% – is it really fair to expect to – within the SAME timeline – get both up to 82%? Clearly it will require alot more effort for some groups then others, and hence more time.

    What is needed here are the long-term goals – if those are the current goals how do the numbers change if you fast forward 5 or 10 years?

  • Christine

    I’m a teacher in Virginia. This year, the state rolled out a new teacher evaluation system that allows teachers to set their own goals based on prior years’ data (for example, state-wide and national exams, but also smaller things like homework completion) for what is commonly called “closing the achievement gap.” We have been encouraged to try to emphasize “closing the gap” among certain subgroups of students based on anything that has shown up statistically in the past to be a group that may need more assistance, which can and does often include poverty indicators, race, disability, gender, or a combination of these factors. I think it’s racist to pretend that there is no gap and not pay special attention to why it exists in an effort to make positive change for these students. There is a big gap. It is there. It needs to be addressed.

    The goal is always everyone being on the same page. The reality is that kids don’t come to school in a vacuum and outside influences on learning vary widely based on privilege and support, and some start at a different place than others. School systems like to set goals that are specific, measurable, and have a clear path towards how to remediate students to lead to achievement. When Virginia says this is the goal, they have a plan for how to get there. They are always looking for specific improvements. I hope we continue to bump up our goals in increments that are clear and demonstrable, and continue to prioritize making sure that students get the services they need to be successful.

  • Gene

    Are you being deliberately obtuse here?

    The current passing rate for black students in Virginia is 35 percent. Bringing up the rate of kids 10 percent in two years will take a Herculean effort; anyone who follows education policy knows that the needle never moves that much over such a short period of time. It’s a wildly ambitious goal.

    Saying that black kids in the aggregate and Asian kids in the aggregate should have the same passing rates in the same period, even as those subpopulations are starting at very different places, is completely unrealistic.

    But don’t let me get in the way of your sanctimonious snark.

  • trickie

    “Virginia considers being disabled akin to being a specific race. Or maybe, being a specific race is the equivalent of being disabled?” What? No. These are seperate issues of bigotry I’m pretty sure that no comparison was necessary. Please don’t conflate the two in future. They weren’t trying to say that one was like the other. They were basically just saying that both racial minorities and disabled children do not deserve the same expectations.