Oklahoma Educator Thinks Lowering Standards for Black Students Will Help Close Achievement Gap

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A new Oklahoma A-F report card grading system has sparked controversy for allegedly being biased toward Black and Hispanic students, but some supporters say the new system is an attempt to be more culturally sensitive.

Critics believe that the system approved in December by the State Board of Education has set lower achievement standards for nonwhite students. The President of ChoiceMatters for Kids, Robert Ruiz, told News 9 that teachers may treat their Black and Hispanic students differently in order to meet the lower achievement targets.

“These are African-American children who are in the middle class or upper class, but their expectation level is lower than a white child,” Ruiz says. “When you set lower bars and lower expectations for people, … you start believing that a child cannot learn or is less likely to learn or less likely to succeed because of the color of their skin. That’s inevitable that it’s going to flow down to the children.”

The new system will take into account absentee rate, post-secondary readiness and achievement by English-language learners.

However, supporters of the new system believe that it falls in line with the national achievement gap. Millwood Public Schools Superintendent Cecilia Robinson-Woods thinks that the state is finally addressing how economic disparities factor into student learning.

“It doesn’t meet my definition or threshold of racism,” counters Robinson-Woods, whose district is 97 percent Black. “The differences in between learners Black, poor, rich, middle class, whatever, is different than learners that are white in whatever class. That’s just the National Achievement Gap data, that’s what it is.”

She added that the new system is a diligent attempt to be more culturally sensitive.

“It’s just acknowledging the differences in how different cultures learn,” she said. “It’s just taking into account that everybody doesn’t show up the same.”

The new system must be voted on by the Oklahoma state legislature and be approved by the governor to become law, News 9 reported.

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