State to revisit math benchmarks

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Virginia Board of Education will reconsider in September a controversial policy that set different math standards for different groups of students, depending on their race.

The president of the state Board of Education announced Wednesday that he will request a “revisit” of math Standards of Learning benchmarks set forth under a No Child Left Behind waiver.

David M. Foster stated in a press release he would ask the board at its Sept. 27 meeting to revisit annual measurable objectives set in July using a methodology approved by the U.S. Department of Education.


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The federal department approved waiving certain NCLB mandates for Virginia on June 29, resulting in new lower goals for minorities and other groups.

The differentiated goals drew fire from a group of black state legislators including two representing parts of Suffolk, and chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, over concerns of inequality.

“The timeline for reviewing Virginia’s request necessitated both the Board of Education and USED approving a methodology for setting annual objectives for student subgroups before results from the rigorous new mathematics Standards of Learning tests were available,” Foster stated.

“Now that we know the impact of the 2011-2012 tests on the mathematics AMOs, USED, Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright, Secretary of Education Laura Fornash and I agree that the board should revisit the methodology in order to set more aggressive annual goals for raising subgroup achievement and closing achievement gaps.”

According to the release, federal Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah S. Delisle wrote in a letter to Wright that Foster’s decision “reflects the Commonwealth’s ‘commitment to put into place a system intended to improve the performance of all students and close achievement gaps.’”

Foster said both Gov. Bob McDonnell and the Board of Education are “committed to high expectations for all students. This is evident in our decision not to back away from the commonwealth’s challenging new mathematics standards.

“And this commitment will inform the board’s review of the federal AMOs next month and the discussion that will begin shortly thereafter about strengthening the commonwealth’s accreditation standards and reaching the board’s goal of proficiency for all students.”

Demographic characteristics of schools do not affect Board of Education accreditation standards, the release noted.

Schools require the same achievement levels on SOL tests in English, math, science and social science, regardless of the race or ethnicity of students, to earn full accreditation.