Amid a heated national debate about how to deal with racism in public schools, test results and other data show that Brevard County’s black students perform worse than their white classmates in school.
At a meeting of the Brevard School Board on Tuesday, Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Mark Mullins discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted student performance on the ground.
The data on the “COVID-19 slide” that educators fear is so far limited. The standardized tests published for the 2020-2021 school year are third grade English and Language Arts test results. These showed a 4% decrease in child pass rates.
But data presented by Mullins from the 2018-2019 school year showed blatant differences between white students and students of other races. There were also deficits for students with disabilities and low incomes.
For the 2018-2019 school year, white students had an A average, Hispanic students had a B average, African American students had a C average, and economically disadvantaged students of all races had a B average.
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In Brevard, 68% of white students achieved at least one grade on state English and language exams, while 26% of black students did. Seventy-three percent of non-economically disadvantaged students read at grade level in 2018-2019, while 48% of economically disadvantaged students did so. Students with disabilities reached grade 27% of the time, compared with 67% of their peers without disabilities. Asian students outperformed white students in English and Linguistics, with 80% of them meeting state standards.
The data was presented during a tense national conversation about how African American history is taught in schools. Conservatives across the country say they are concerned that teachers are sowing racial divisions by teaching that America is inherently racist.
At Tuesday’s meeting, several black community leaders were in attendance, including members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and members of Student Achievement Councils at several schools in the area, and said the data showed black students falling through the cracks and need additional assistance.
“But I challenge you, these problems would not be solved without a strategy,” said Bernard Bryant, an SAC member for several local schools. “Today I urge you, school board members, to please do not allow yourself to be distracted. We know there are some cultural problems today, but these children need your help and I ask you to help. “
The Florida Education Board on Wednesday approved new state standards that will change the way civics, government, and topics like the Holocaust are taught in public schools, with the stated goal of instilling “a sense of civic pride” in and out of students to require them to “study primary sources”. Documents to understand the philosophical foundations of the American Republic and the roots of American exceptionalism. “
Last month, State Representative Randy Fine held a press conference with conservative parenting group Moms for Liberty to show what they claimed to be evidence that Brevard Public Schools taught critical racial theory.
Critical Racial Theory is a framework of jurisprudence that racism against People of Color is ubiquitous and embedded in the foundation of the US legal system and society as a whole.
Pointing to internal communication among staff, Fine argued that disciplining students should be race based and that black students perform worse in less heterogeneous schools.
A former teacher at the press conference described BPS’s diversity training as “programming” according to Marxist principles. Fine also criticized the school district for hiring an equity director in October 2020.
Jennifer Jenkins, a board member at Brevard Public Schools, said she felt “disgusting” from the statistics and said the data Mullins presented on Tuesday was evidence of the need for the stock director’s position.
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“There has been a public discussion lately about our Director of Justice and Diversity and why should we have someone like that here, and I think this presentation really supports that,” said Jenkins.
In a separate news conference on Friday, Brevard County Democrats Chair Pamela Castellana revealed publicly available data from the Florida Department of Education showing that black students at Brevard Public Schools are less likely to get good grades or be “gifted” and more likely are disciplined or diagnosed with a disability. It also showed deficits for economically disadvantaged students.
According to DOE data, African American students make up about 15% of the BPS population, but over 30% of expulsions.
Castellana said these statistics highlight the need for a director for equity, she said
“Representative. Fine contradicts the word ‘equity’, ”said Castellana. “He believes that equal access to education is enough for black children. But we can clearly see from the statistics that something is wrong with the outcome of the educational experience for black students. “
Fine, who had returned from a three-week vacation and hadn’t yet reviewed the school council meeting or Castellana’s remarks, said Friday that unless the school council and Castellana data were statistically controlled for variables other than race – like disability and economic disadvantage – the assumption that students underperformed because of race was inherently racist.
“You may have given me the best evidence for applying Critical Theory of Race to Brevard Public Schools,” said Fine. “Critical Racial Theory… would say that income doesn’t matter; your parents’ education level doesn’t matter … we’ll just look at race. That’s critical racial theory and that’s racist, ”said Fine.
Bailey Gallion is an education reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallion at 321-242-3786 or [email protected].