RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Board of Education unanimously approved new goals for closing achievement gaps in math scores Thursday, but the state's top educators warned people to view the measure as a minimum, not as the end-all of scholastic aspiration.
On a 9-0 vote during its regular monthly meeting, the board approved new annual measurable objectives for math that were proposed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright. The vote finalizes new standards that were part of the state's application for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind regulations.
"These (objectives) are not goals, they are not expectations," Wright said. "These simply are progress metrics."
The metrics, as she called them, are an attempt to close an existing gap in which white students perform better on state math assessments than black and Hispanic students and students with learning challenges.
In the next six years, all school divisions in the state are supposed to show math pass rates of at least 73 percent.
Asian students are already above that level and white students are within 5 percentage points. Students with disabilities are the furthest back, falling 40 percentage points below the goal. Black students are at 45 percent and Hispanics at 52 percent.
Board member Billy K. Cannaday Jr. said the vote was the chance for the state to prove it was serious about creating an equal chance for all students.
"First, we acknowledge there is a gap and (say) it's intolerable," he said, describing the steps he suggested the board take. "Second, we chart a path to closing it. Our effort is not just to comply, it's to do right things by all children."
Board President David M. Foster echoed Wright's sentiment. "These are not goals. They are minimum improvements to be made by the lowest-performing schools."
Board member Winsome E. Sears offered the only challenge of the discussion, asking Wright why the state chose to go with overall objectives rather than create specific goals for each of the state's 1,836 public schools.
Wright said she considered that but opted against it "because it doesn't create any transparency. We should have statewide expectations."
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