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Jeb Bush and his Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Jeb Bush has a memory problem. Either that or he continues to mislead the people of Florida and the nation. In an article published in the Washington Times last week- Bush complained that states were setting lower standards for some students. He saw this as a problem with the Arne Duncan waiver plan.  Maybe he still thinks that the unrealistic goals of NCLB are just great. Does he still want to punish schools for not getting all students to meet a fake “on grade level” status? 50th percentile or bust eh Jeb?

I found the Bush lament odd and downright insulting since Florida is one of the states that best represents the soft bigotry of low expectations. Under the Bush/Florida model, students labeled ESE do not have to pass ANY state exams to get standard diplomas.  This is not just for FCAT but it includes all of the state End of Course Exams. They do not have to pass any of them.

Enabling these students is one of the worst crimes in Florida. Students realize they can fail all exams and it will not matter. They get a “waiver.” What a great way to prop up graduation rates.  This creates a big problem with the Florida VAM scores that can get a teacher fired.

What if you have 70 out of 125 students who know they can blow off all exams and still graduate? The teacher next to you only has 3 out of 125 students who are ESE and do not have to pass the exams. The VAM scores in Florida are totally bogus.

Due to what Jeb Bush, the legislature, and DOE have done over the last twenty years, we are seeing generations of learned helplessness.  The low expectations we have for ESE students are shocking. It starts early on. Kids are labeled for life. ESE is a major cottage industry, much like ESOL. Extra funding comes to districts as they “create” new ESE/ESOL students.

This might be a dirty little secret that needs to get out.  How long are we going to expect less from our ESE students in Florida? Waivers are handed out like candy. Students and parents know it.

I am not talking about profoundly mentally handicapped students. There are severe cases that need alternate assessment. Florida has an alternate assessment for these students but they don’t have to demonstrate any level of success to get a waiver. Most of these students are getting a non-standard diploma anyway.

Shame on you Mr. Bush. Don’t ever pretend you want to hold all students to the same standards.




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