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With NCLB Waiver, Virginia Sorts Kids' Scores By Race 622

According to a story at Northwest Public Radio, the state of Virginia's board of education has decided to institute different passing scores for standardized tests, based on the racial and cultural background of the students taking the test. Apparently the state has chosen to divide its student population into broad categories of black, white, Hispanic, and Asian — which takes painting with a rather broad brush, to put it mildly. From the article (there's an audio version linked as well): "As part of Virginia's waiver to opt out of mandates set out in the No Child Left Behind law, the state has created a controversial new set of education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for blacks, Latinos and students with disabilities. ... Here's what the Virginia state board of education actually did. It looked at students' test scores in reading and math and then proposed new passing rates. In math it set an acceptable passing rate at 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for blacks and 33 percent for kids with disabilities." (If officially determined group membership determines passing scores, why stop there?) Florida passed a similar measure last month.
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With NCLB Waiver, Virginia Sorts Kids' Scores By Race

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  • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:42PM (#41968873) Homepage

    before (instead) of doing something so foolish: []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:49PM (#41969003)

    back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate a passing grade for him would be a 75.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:57PM (#41969165)

    I recall reading about a black woman visiting the US, and being stopped by the police as she drove through one town. The officer asked her to show her license, but then as soon as he heard her reply in a well educated british accent, he said "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were black."

    Perhaps some similar thinking is happening here. A confusion of skin colour with culture?

  • Re:FL vs VA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geminidomino ( 614729 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:57PM (#41969169) Journal

    Florida appears to have set the passing rate (and not the passing scores) differently (per TFA); while VA simple set different passing scores.

    No, Virginia didn't. The shitty summary just made it look like they did.

    Another ref, besides TFA: [Citation] []

    The new standards still require every student, regardless of background, to correctly answer the same number of questions to pass SOL tests.

    For example, every student who takes the third-grade math exam must answer correctly 23 of 35 questions to pass, no matter their race or background. ...
    The state did set new pass rates, or goals for how many students in each group pass each exam.

    Using the same example of the third-grade math test: the state goal is for 45 percent of black students to answer 23 of 35 items correctly and for 82 percent of Asian students to answer 23 of 35 items correctly.

    It's still stupid, ignorant, and racist as all get-out (redundancy noted), but black students won't be getting "C" grades for 45% scores.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:59PM (#41969191) Journal
    The best predictor for educational/academic success is not race. It is the level of education of the parents. Usually parents' educational achievement is correlated with income and wealth too. (correlated, that is all. No inference on the direction of causation). Level of education of parents is also correlated with race. With so many cross correlation it takes some serious study to understand the causation, and the feedback loop.

    I think the students would be better served if a relative ranking within their own "class" is tabulated. A student can belong to more than one class. One by race, another by level of income, and another by level of parents' education etc. Again instead of messing around with pass/fail for the students, this correlation should be used to judge teachers. All teachers do not get uniform quality input. Then it is wrong to judge them by the raw educational achievements of their students. These correlations can be used to identify the good teachers and the bad teachers.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:59PM (#41969201) Journal

    Encourage racism? It is racism.

    When I was a kid, I used to think that racism didn't happen. It was so illogical and obviously wrong. Even books that portrayed racism that "just was" in my countries past seemed to be set with an alien mentality. But then as I grew older I was exposed works like "American History X" (the son's descent into racism had flawed but plausible logic behind it) and it slowly dawned on me that there are experiences in life that encourage racism that are far more detrimental than simply being racist. Because they propagate it and it survives past the last generation on and on and anew again.

    For example, let's say you were (and this is purely hypothetical by the way) beaten and mugged by Hispanics which led you to distrust any person even remotely resembling your attackers. It's wrong for you to scream at your housemaid that was paid to clean your house by your cleaning company. And it's wrong for you to call them up and hurl racial slurs at them for putting your life and property in danger. However, the really problematic aspect of that is when you sit down with your progeny when they're little and explain to them why people with a certain color to their skin are not to be trusted. This is something that encourages racism instead of just being racist.

    But then racism was always OK as long as it's anti-white.

    Well, I didn't really read this as anti-white. I saw this as actually racist towards all races since they are binning these young minds based on external appearances. Instead of trying to buck a trend, they have embraced it. To shed this discussion of your "it's anti-white" bias, allow me to relay what I see as being the real fallout from this action: an obsessive Asian student scores 100 on this test but an African American child scores 65 and is seen as being more successful than the Asian student. This allows students to progress on the path of education and causes resentment from the Asian child directed at the African American child. "They got it easy" will probably be the sentiment but could spawn a deep seated hatred or other negative stereotypes of their classmates. No need to bring Caucasian students in to that picture or claim it's just "anti-white."

    Could you explain and give examples of racism that is okay because it's "anti-white"?

  • by craigminah ( 1885846 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:10PM (#41969363)
    How will this encourage racism? Are we to think all races learn all subjects equally in school? How about men and women's learning abilities and aptitudes? What about athletics, are we all the same there as well? The truth is, we're all a little different, either through genetics or through culture and environment, and we need to stop yelling "it's racism" and instead look at how we're different. We should emphasize our strengths while working to improve our weaknesses.

    I think a good first step is to encourage and promote how cool it is to know stuff, to not have to Google every fact, and to stop glamorizing actors, actresses, musicians, athletes, etc. My in-laws are first generation (South) Korean-Americans and their children are pushed to learn and study so much more than I was and I consider myself to have been motivated to learn when I was growing up (I read a TON of non-fiction).

    This problem is primarily a cultural problem with a few contributing factors such as teachers abilities, unions, etc. I think funding is a minor issue as funding does not equate to schools with high performing students.
  • by bhlowe ( 1803290 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:24PM (#41969641)
    The less racist way would be to test children's IQ's and use the number to set a goal for achievement. It makes no sense to have the same goals for all kids no matter what their innate intelligence is. IQ is easily testable, and it is difficult to increase your IQ by more than a standard deviation through "study" or environment. Doing it based on self-identified "skin color" is a shortcut that will lead to underachievement by smart kids that are in a "dumbed down" category. Education is the most expensive budget item in every state, and yet we don't use technology to assess kids and create personalized lessons that are tailored to a kids ability. IQ is already tested for in schools, so it would not be difficult to integrate the number into the scores used to gauge educational progress.
  • by Velex ( 120469 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:27PM (#41969689) Journal

    What are you going to do if someones culture really does have a significant measurable impact on their learning performance? Tell them that their culture sucks?


  • Mixed race? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bob_jordan ( 39836 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:27PM (#41969691)

    I know someone who is half African and half Chinese. How would their passing score be calculated?


  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:29PM (#41969719)

    technology theoretically allows the kind of workforce amplification that would allow for a near utopia society. We could all have been working 20 hour work weeks and earn more than enough for an upper middle class lifestyle if it were not for the leaching plutocratic class.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:42PM (#41969973)

    nobody is pure and that is a damned good thing for humanity as a whole

    Being a mixed breed is not always good. Humans in different regions have diverged genetically but not so much that they can't breed with each other. But some of those variations are incompatible with others. Just ask an orthodontist. One dentist claimed German teeth in an Irish mouth is a recipe for crowding. Another pointed out that Asians and Native Americans have different jaw shapes than Europeans, so they aim to "align teeth accordingly". So you can start getting slightly incompatible mixtures of geometric traits. And that's just with teeth. Of course divergence/mixing/selection pressure is a good cycle to have from an evolutionary point of view, but it can have negative effects on some of the mutts ;-)

  • Re:FL vs VA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zalbik ( 308903 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @02:09PM (#41970451)

    No, Virginia didn't. The shitty summary just made it look like they did.

    To be fair, the shitty NPR article also made it look like they did.

    From the article:
    "Here's what the Virginia state board of education actually did. It looked at students' test scores in reading and math and then proposed new passing rates. In math it set an acceptable passing rate at 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for blacks and 33 percent for kids with disabilities."

    The article claims the board "looked at test scores" and then "proposed new passing rates". This implies an equivalence between the "test scores" and "passing rates", whereas in actual fact the first refers to student's actual scores, and the second refers to the target for the % of students of each race that must pass in order for the school to be judged as "successful".

    It's still racist as heck, but the actual standards are not at all what the summary claims.

  • by yog ( 19073 ) * on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @03:30PM (#41971861) Homepage Journal

    She registered herself as a minority, which under Virginia's system would guarantee that her children got special treatment on "standardized" tests. Although, what kind of minority are Cherokee? Would they be filed under disadvantaged, or under superior? Given their genetic similarity and shared ancestry with Asians (probably Mongolians and central Asians, but in S. America more aboriginal Asians from Indonesia and Malaysia) they would be classified as superior, hence their scores would be curved down.

    It boggles the mind. Virginia must be run by true idiots, to think they could get away with this.

  • by theArtificial ( 613980 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @05:24PM (#41973609)

    I just wish we could go metric, like the rest of the fucking world.

    Nothing is stopping you from that, what is a significant issue is all the signs that are out there, the cost to replace those isn't trivial. The military uses it and most science is done in it []. The reason for TV shows (News included) using imperial units is because the point of the show is to get the message across to their audience and what better way to do that in terms people are familiar with. Interesting flights use feet for altitude.

    But no, the USA just has to be different with an antiquated system of measurement that no one else uses.

    UK still hasn't fully converted over. Each system has their merits, one that I see commonly used to push metric temperatures is "Hey Americans, what temperature does water freeze at? It's easy, 0!" while glossing over what salt water freezes at. The history of how these systems came about is really interesting. Using 10 makes for easy conversions, it's true, 12 also has more divisors which comes in handy especially in construction. Beyond that most imperial units involve halving things, which is natural to do when you only have one of something.

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:21PM (#41976645) Homepage Journal

    I just wish we could go metric, like the rest of the fucking world.

    Back in the 1980s, there was a fun NPR (National Public Radio) article on the non-celebration of the 100th anniversary of the US "going metric". As part of the article, they explained what this really meant.

    Actually, there have been two major historic changes in US law that could be called "going metric". The first was in the 1840s, when Congress passed a law saying in effect that no contract could be declared in breach if either party used metric measurements. This effectively made the metric system legal for all commercial and legal purposes. It didn't require the use of metric units, but then, very few countries have ever done that. What typically happens is that the government declares the metric system legal, and most businesses switch to it for convenience in dealing with the rest of the world. In the US, this didn't happen, mostly because the US has long been a relatively isolated "market", with only a few percent of its trade with foreign businesses. So until most suppliers used metric units, it wasn't in a business's interest to do so.

    The change in the 1880s was different. What happened then was that the US's standards bureau (NIST nowadays, but it changes its name every few decades) decided it was time to do their periodic update of all measurement standards. Most government standards bodies do this, because their primary reason for existence is to say "If you use the unit X, you must use the following definition, or you'll be legally guilty of fraud". They rarely decree that you must must use unit X; their job is rather to maintain and publish the legal definitions of all units of measurement, typically using the currently best definition that their engineers know of.

    In the 1880s, the US's standards bureau decided that the metric system's units, as defined in Paris, had become the highest-precision and most reliable units. So they published a new definition of all American units in terms of metric units. This meant, for example, that the legal definition of the inch in the US became 2.56 cm. That's not an approximation with more digits; it's exact because the standards bureau says so. This meant that the metric system was legally the basis of American units of measurement, and we were officially "on the metric system". It's an "extended" metric system, of course, with both centimeters and inches, grams and ounces, etc., but the metric units became the basic units at that time, and all non-metric units were redefined in metric terms.

    And American business continued to use its traditional units of measurement, though they were now all defined as multiples of metric units. Again, there was no reason to convert until all your other related businesses converted.

    But the change is happening, slowly. I've found that, with time, it's more and more convenient to use metric tools. I don't buy measuring tapes or rulers unless they have cm and mm markings in addition to those clumsy foot/inch markings. Some recent improvements in our house were mostly done using the metric markings on the tools. And I've noticed that most things sold in hardware stores with "American" units are actually made with metric measurements; the American units are actually just approximations. If you like to tinker with your car, it's been years since you needed any non-metric tools in the US, unless you have a pre-1980 "vintage" car.

    What's pushing the change is the fact that American commerce is slowly becoming more and more international. As more things are imported, or have imported components, their measurements are round numbers in metric units and "weird" numbers in American units. And, as others have observed, US schools more and more teach metric first, with the "weird" units an afterthought. This is slowly having the desired effect of pushing the country toward uniformity with the rest of the world.

    But, as with England and Canada, we'll probably use

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde