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Florida’s Schools are Resegregating and Our Accountability System Doesn’t Work

Recently, Dr. Gary Orfield spoke with Jeffrey Solocheck for his Tampa Bay Times Gradepost Podcast, regarding Orfield’s recent report “Patterns of Resegregation in Florida’s Schools.” The podcast is worth a listen (beginning at 10:05) and the report is worth a read (particularly the recommendations for changes in state policies on page 21).

The report’s findings were summarized in the Orlando Sentinel:

“Student enrollment trends in Florida over the past decades show growing racial isolation for Hispanic and black students on some measures, with signs of continuous segregation on others,” the study said.

About 32 percent of Hispanic students and 35 percent of black students in Florida attend “intensely segregated” schools, defined as having a nonwhite student body of 90 percent or greater, according to the study.

One out of every five schools was intensely segregated in the 2014-2015 academic year, about double the 10.6 percent of the schools that fell into that category in 1994-1995.

The more heavily segregated schools had more poor students. In schools with at least a 50 percent nonwhite school body, low-income students represented 68 percent of the population. Low-income students represented 82.5 percent of the population in the schools with a 90 percent or greater nonwhite student body.

This is a problem. Returning to pre-Brown vs the Board of Education levels of segregation is not good for our society; per Dr. Orfield it is “really, really harmful.”

At the end of the Gradebook podcast, Dr. Orfield was asked if he had any other thoughts for people observing Florida’s school system. Indeed, he did. He called for putting an end to accountabaloney (You can listen at 20:00)

Florida has gone in a really deep dive into the accountability proposition and that’s been the dominant model of, especially of conservative, educational reform now ever since Ronald Reagan’s report in 1983, “A Nation at Risk.”

It hasn’t worked.

Branding and punishing schools that have lower test scores means you take the minority, high poverty schools and you add to their inherent difficulties: humiliation, threats and disillusion and so forth. That does not produce educational gains, it produces increasing inequality and, you know, that whole model needs to be looked at; needs to be held accountable.

We haven’t had any accountability for the crazy accountability reforms we have implemented and they have very disproportionately punished black and Latino schools and their faculties.

We couldn’t agree more. For all the reasons Dr. Orfield gives, it is time to hold Florida’s Accountability System accountable for the damage it has done to our schools.

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