In a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell the General Assembly's Black Legislative Caucus (VBLC) asks the governor to "discard" new education standard established by the state Board of Education saying the standards "aim low" and "categorizes children in a way that harkens back to Virginia’s inglorious past."
In the wake of Virginia getting a waiver from the federal government from the No Child Left Behind law, the Board of Education has adopted "Annual Measurable Objectives" to replace "Adequate Yearly Progress" measures.
The AMOs divide students into distinct demographic categories that have different levels of achievement required depending on the group. For example benchmark pass rates in Math are set at 82 percent for Asian students; 68 percent for white students; 52 percent for Hispanic students; 45 percent for black students; and 33 percent for all Special Education students.
"The new 'Annual Measurable Objectives' takes the position that pass rates for students must be differentiated on the basis of race, intellectual ability, income levels, and language proficiency," wrote Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, who serves as the caucus chair. "This proposal establishes different requirements for different groups of students, marginalizing many. This 'aim low' approach is both insulting and narrow-minded in its approach to doing what is in the best interest of children. "
The VBLCis asking for an explanation from the McDonnell administration as to how the new standards are developed and asks the governor to set the AMO aside and replaced with a set of benchmarks that do not separate students into such distinct demographic groups.
"We strongly urge that these new requirements be discarded and replaced with standards that ensure that every child, irrespective of race, national origin, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or intellectual ability, be afforded the opportunity to be successful," the letter states.
Read the full letter from the VBLC to Gov. McDonnell here: (Note: Emphasis is as it appears in original letter)
13 August, 2012
The Honorable Robert F. McDonnell
Patrick Henry Building
1111 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Dear Governor McDonnell:
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus is an organization committed to ensuring that children in the Commonwealth receive a quality education in the public school systems of this great state. Further, we believe that education is the “great equalizer” in our society and that our system of public education must remain viable and strong. The state’s new system of benchmarks for performance is antithetical to this goal.
For many years the state has touted that its Standards of Learning (SOLs) were far superior to the No Child Left Behind requirements. The latter established a goal of every student meeting standards of learning for math and reading. The new “Annual Measurable Objectives” takes the position that pass rates for students must be differentiated on the basis of race, intellectual ability, income levels, and language proficiency. This proposal establishes different requirements for different groups of students, marginalizing many. This “aim low” approach is both insulting and narrow-minded in its approach to doing what is in the best interest of children. As an educator, I am appalled that the Commonwealth would put forward such a proposal that categorizes children in a way that harkens back to Virginia’s inglorious past. The VLBC has worked hard to promote fair and equitable opportunities for children only to be faced with yet another effort to undermine public education and minimize the learning capabilities of children. A prominent Virginia educator once said about his success as a teacher, “I can teach students anything, once I have their attention.” This proposal forsakes attention for expediency in having Virginia meet goals through low expectations. Schools will never improve or close the achievement gap if this is the approach to be taken. There is little accountability and little consequences for this method of providing education for Virginia’s children.
Noted educator Dr. Benjamin Mays once said "The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for, not failure, but low aim, is sin." Is the Commonwealth setting our children up for failure through low aim and giving them little to dream for in terms of equal opportunity? We submit that this proposal does exactly that.
We are requesting an explanation of these new standards, why they were developed, the purpose served and whether you support the implementation. We strongly urge that these new requirements be discarded and replaced with standards that ensure that every child, irrespective of race, national origin, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or intellectual ability, be afforded the opportunity to be successful.
Senator Mamie E. Locke,Ph.D., Chair, VLBC