Virginia's State Board of Education is expected to approve the new mathematics goals for low-performing schools required under a "No Child Left Behind" waiver next month. Some are already complaining that the proposal is a move backwards for minority education.
Under the federal agreement, accreditation status will be determined by how well all students perform, but it's the way that performance is evaluated that has upset the Legislative Black Caucus and education activists such as John Whitley.
"It is labeling and identifying, selecting and eliminating identified groups — black kids, Hispanic kids, disabled kids and saying, 'We're going to stick you over here,'" says Whitley.
The Caucus wrote a scathing letter about the evaluation process, but Board member Winsome Sears, a former Delegate and Caucus member, took offense at the notion that no questions had been asked about the process, since she herself had asked such questions from the start.
"We all want the best for our children, so why are we having this certain sub-groups?" says Sears. "Because we're starting the black children where they are. We can't start them at the 82 percentile because they're not there."
Sears says the Board is also trying to find out why some ethnic groups are not reaching their full potential, and the plan does hold teachers and administrators accountable. Others say urban districts receive inadequate funding for the support staff and learning tools they need to help raise student achievement.