Tell Virginia to resist separate and unequal expectations for our students!
I am an African-American mother of two children in Virginia public schools. Both of them have a learning disability. My husband and I have very high expectations for our children. It has been a struggle to make sure their schools share our high expectations. One day my son's speech pathologist told me that she was not sure if my son had a "real" speech delay, or if my husband and I were speaking "Black English" to him at home, and that was the cause for my son's speech delays. I guess she forgot that my husband, and proud father of my children, is White.
At that moment, I knew that it would take more, than just raising our children to believe that if they work hard, they can and will achieve great things. I would also have to convince their schools to look beyond my children's race or disabilities and believe that they could be successful in school and in life. Virginia is sending the opposite message to parents like me—and to our schools.
Virginia has adopted new achievement targets for schools that vary by race, socioeconomic status, disability, and language proficiency status. The targets for Black and Hispanic students are much lower than for those of other races. So are the goals for students with disabilities, low-income students, and English language learners.
For example, next year schools must meet a 68% pass rate on math SOL tests for White students and 82% for Asian students. But they only have to meet a 45% pass rate for Black students and 52% for Hispanic students.. Next year’s goal for students with disabilities, only about 10% of whom have severe cognitive deficits, is a gut-wrenchingly awful 33%.
Virginia is creating expectations for our students that are separate and unequal. What is worse, Virginia’s plan will lock in existing disparities for the next six years. In fact, Virginia’s new math targets create a black-white achievement gap that is larger in five years than it was last year.
History tells us what happens when you separate students by status. Before Brown v. Board, millions of Virginia’s black students were locked out of white schools and consequently, further educational and professional opportunities were lost. Before the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, millions of students with disabilities were educated in separate schools or not at all. Before Title VI, language minority students had to sink or swim on their own, falling further behind on knowledge and skills while they struggled to learn English.
How many times do we have to learn that treating people differently – sometimes done in the name of helping them succeed – is the best way to make sure they fail?
The good news is – Virginians are starting to take a stand. I invite you to stand with us by signing this petition, to send a message to federal and state policymakers that separate and unequal testing targets cannot stand! Rather than set testing targets that lock in disparities, Virginia should set the same high expectations for every group of students and require students, subgroups, schools, and divisions that are further behind to make greater rates of annual progress.
For more information, please see:
Washington Post op-ed by Andy Rotherham:
Richmond Times- Dispatch by Kris Amundson:
Huffington Post by SamreenHooda:
We, the undersigned, respectfully request that your agency carefully scrutinize the implementation of Virginia’s ESEA waiver.
Virginia has taken the astonishing step of setting six-year targets that vary by race, disability, income, and language proficiency status – in some cases by as much as 40 percentage points. The annual measurable objectives are so low that most schools in the Commonwealth will have no incentive to close the achievement gap. We ask you to address the following problems with Virginia's waiver implementation:
1. Virginia’s testing targets for math proficiency will increase achievement gaps among student groups. For example, the actual black-white achievement gap on 2010-2011 math tests was 13 points. Under the waiver, the difference between the goals for black and white students in 2016-2017 is 21 points.
2. Virginia is shortchanging vulnerable students. Virginia’s testing targets for both reading and math are not "similarly ambitious" to the targets that would result from the other two options you approved.
3. Virginia’s targets ensure that only the lowest performing schools will have any incentive to close achievement gaps. Under the waiver, only schools at or near the 20th percentile will have to improve subgroup performance. The Commonwealth’s state accountability system does not require disaggregation for accountability purposes; therefore, only the lowest performing schools in Virginia will have to work to close achievement gaps.
4. The process of developing Virginia’s AMOs lacked in transparency and meaningful stakeholder input. Virginia did not provide a public estimate of the actual targets that would be produced by its methodology prior to USED’s approval of its application.
We urge you to create more ambitious goals for all student subgroups in order to improve educational outcomes and the quality of instruction, close achievement gaps and increase equity.
Cheryl A Poe