Add Gov. Rick Scott to the list of people unhappy with the state Board of Education's five-year strategic plan and it's varied race-based achievement goals.
Scott's office issued a statement today that said the achievement gap between racial and ethnic subgroups is an issues that needs more attention than what is contained in the document the Board of Education approved on Oct. 9.
"Such a gap is unacceptable," Scott said. "The actions taken last week by the State Board of Education in adopting their strategic plan did not clearly articulate our shared commitment to fully close that achievement gap for all students, regardless of race, geography, gender or other circumstance."
The governor went on to urge the state Board of Education to consider revising the document.
"The standards set by the State Board must 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," Scott wrote.
Ever since last week's meeting, education advocates around the state have complained about the race-based achievement goals in the five-year strategic plan. The argued the document allows disparities, and therefore the achievement gap, to languish for too long in Florida schools. The issue has even drawn national attention.
Board of Education members, backed by interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, have defended their actions and said the plan helps the state move toward it's long-term goals of all students achieving proficiency by the 2022-2023 academic year.Race-based achievement goals among school districts and states have become more common in the era of high-stakes testing and accountability. The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, proposed by then-President George W. Bush, required schools that receive certain types of federal funding to meet annual achievement goals among various subgroups that included racial and ethnic minorities.
Hours before Scott weighed in on the matter, state Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand also released a statement defending the strategic plan and re-iterating the long-term goal of closing the achivement gap.
“During the State Board of Education meeting I specifically asked department staff to include a footnote in the strategic plan that clearly states the goal of the State Board of Education is that all children would become 100 percent proficient," Chartrand said. "We have to acknowledge that there are different starting points among groups of students today. 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."