Here We Go: Alabama to Implement “Race-Based Standards” in Public Schools

Daniel Doherty

7/12/2013 12:00:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to post-racial America. Via the Wall Street Journal:

The Alabama Federation of Republican Women (AFRW) strongly opposes "race-based standards for student achievement" pushed by the Alabama Department of Education, as reported in The Tuscaloosa News on Sunday, June 30. Minority students will be held to a lower standard, and would be tracked at a lower standard throughout their academic career from K-12.

According to this article by Jamon Smith, "Beginning this fall, Alabama public schools will be under a new state-created academic accountability system that sets different goals for students in math and reading based on their race, economic status, ability to speak English and disabilities." Alabama's Plan 2020 "sets a different standard for students in each of several subgroups -- American Indian, Asian/Pacific islander, black, English language learners, Hispanic, multirace, poverty, special education and white."

The "race-based" standards are part of Common Core, adopted by the state board of education in November 2010.

Walter Russell Mead points out that race-based standards are hardly new. Indeed, he writes, 27 out of the 33 states that received waivers from No Child Left Behind’s strict academic requirements in 2012 “now have different achievement goals for different groups of students.” This in turn works out well for public schools who can keep receiving federal funds even though many of their students are falling by the wayside. But just because this practice is exceedingly common and popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s morally defensible. One of the more powerful arguments against Plessy vs. Ferguson -- the infamous “separate but equal” Supreme Court ruling in 1896 -- was that sending white and black students to separate but unequal school systems seriously harmed children. Why? Because it made young blacks feel inferior. Question: How on earth would lowering academic standards for non-whites in Alabama’s public schools be any less discriminatory?

The implicit assumption here is that minority students can’t compete with white students. And while it’s certainly true that perhaps some students lag significantly behind their white counterparts in the classroom, what kind of message does it send to persons of color when the achievement bar is purposefully lowered for non-academic reasons? Uniform academic benchmarks might be impossible in Alabama, but I find it reprehensible that minority students would be consigned to dumbed down standards solely because of the color of their skin and/or their parents’ level of income.

It’s self-evidently true that any child -- regardless of race, class or gender -- has the ability to attain the highest levels of academic achievement. Lowering standards and racial profiling in public schools is a terrible idea, not least because it seems to suggest otherwise.

H/T Via Meadia

UPDATE: Note also how the organization in Alabama that opposes race-based standards is not comprised of progressives but of conservative women. Remember that the next time someone on MSNBC shrieks that Republicans down in Dixie are “racists.”