A Socialist Agenda Behind Florida's New Race-Based Education Standards?

M. Catharine Evans
You may never have heard of Amy Wilkins, but she played a major role in the Florida public school system's recent changes in standards of student achievement.Wilkins started out as a community organizer and former worker with the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), and is now VP for an education nonprofit with ties to former CDF personnel.

The grandniece of civil rights icon and NAACP president Roy Wilkins has done a 180-degree turn from pushing unreasonably high benchmarks for evaluating schools based on testing outcomes [No Child Left Behind in 2002] to recently setting the guidelines for the state of Florida's new separation of standards according to subgroups including black, Latino, and special needs.

Amy's pedigree has made her one of the most influential education lobbyists in Washington. In 2001 she broke with black leaders and became one of the few liberals to back tougher testing standards for all students in low-performing schools.

The liberal Brookings Institution in 2001 questioned why Democrats including Wilkins wanted to ramrod NCLB through when it didn't make sense:

But jettisoning the tough but fatally flawed standards for judging school performance has been a lot harder than Kress expected -- thanks to the influential congressional Democrats and left-leaning education organizations who have come around to thinking that testing is a way to force educators to focus on disadvantaged and minority students.

Over a decade later, Wilkins is now Vice President for Government Affairs and Communication for the Education Trust, an organization that is a leader in the campaign to lower academic standards for minorities. Apparently, her understanding of what works has evolved into a contradiction of her original stance.

Amy Wilkins of The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for low-income and minority students, said Florida officials could have described the interim plan in a "less inflammatory way." But she said it's wrong to criticize the plan, which her group designed. [snip]

She called it "a sensible, ambitious goal" that doesn't sugarcoat the neediest students' low proficiency levels. For instance, while it seeks only 74% reading proficiency for African-American students, it notes that only 38% were proficient last year, far fewer than white students, at 69%. It pushes for 36% more African-American students to become proficient in five years, vs. only 19% more white students.

Wilkins said about 20 states have adopted similar guidelines to qualify for waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Such guidelines demand "more improvement, and faster improvement, for the kids who are furthest behind. If people focused on that... we might get a little further without the fireworks."

Wilkins and many other stakeholders in the education reform movement have little or no direct experience teaching or managing schools. Yet, self-styled reformers such as Wilkins advocate sweeping policy changes which affect students, parents, and anyone else impacted by education.

In a February 2012 interview with NPR, Wilkins was asked about the need to oust bad teachers from the classroom.

Well, yeah, I mean, there are some people who are perfectly wonderful human beings who don't belong in a classroom -- including me, right. I should not be a teacher, but I think I'm still a pretty good person. But yeah, there are -- there is a group of teachers who probably ought not be in the classroom.

She also told the host that a master's degree "doesn't matter" and adds nothing to student achievement. Why should a state submit to changes in its policies made by someone with little skin in the education game other than that of being a social activist?

Employing separate standards for subgroups makes absolutely no sense unless activists like Wilkins intend to suppress black students' achievement levels to further their socialist agenda.

Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report

You may never have heard of Amy Wilkins, but she played a major role in the Florida public school system's recent changes in standards of student achievement.Wilkins started out as a community organizer and former worker with the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), and is now VP for an education nonprofit with ties to former CDF personnel.

The grandniece of civil rights icon and NAACP president Roy Wilkins has done a 180-degree turn from pushing unreasonably high benchmarks for evaluating schools based on testing outcomes [No Child Left Behind in 2002] to recently setting the guidelines for the state of Florida's new separation of standards according to subgroups including black, Latino, and special needs.

Amy's pedigree has made her one of the most influential education lobbyists in Washington. In 2001 she broke with black leaders and became one of the few liberals to back tougher testing standards for all students in low-performing schools.

The liberal Brookings Institution in 2001 questioned why Democrats including Wilkins wanted to ramrod NCLB through when it didn't make sense:

But jettisoning the tough but fatally flawed standards for judging school performance has been a lot harder than Kress expected -- thanks to the influential congressional Democrats and left-leaning education organizations who have come around to thinking that testing is a way to force educators to focus on disadvantaged and minority students.

Over a decade later, Wilkins is now Vice President for Government Affairs and Communication for the Education Trust, an organization that is a leader in the campaign to lower academic standards for minorities. Apparently, her understanding of what works has evolved into a contradiction of her original stance.

Amy Wilkins of The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for low-income and minority students, said Florida officials could have described the interim plan in a "less inflammatory way." But she said it's wrong to criticize the plan, which her group designed. [snip]

She called it "a sensible, ambitious goal" that doesn't sugarcoat the neediest students' low proficiency levels. For instance, while it seeks only 74% reading proficiency for African-American students, it notes that only 38% were proficient last year, far fewer than white students, at 69%. It pushes for 36% more African-American students to become proficient in five years, vs. only 19% more white students.

Wilkins said about 20 states have adopted similar guidelines to qualify for waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Such guidelines demand "more improvement, and faster improvement, for the kids who are furthest behind. If people focused on that... we might get a little further without the fireworks."

Wilkins and many other stakeholders in the education reform movement have little or no direct experience teaching or managing schools. Yet, self-styled reformers such as Wilkins advocate sweeping policy changes which affect students, parents, and anyone else impacted by education.

In a February 2012 interview with NPR, Wilkins was asked about the need to oust bad teachers from the classroom.

Well, yeah, I mean, there are some people who are perfectly wonderful human beings who don't belong in a classroom -- including me, right. I should not be a teacher, but I think I'm still a pretty good person. But yeah, there are -- there is a group of teachers who probably ought not be in the classroom.

She also told the host that a master's degree "doesn't matter" and adds nothing to student achievement. Why should a state submit to changes in its policies made by someone with little skin in the education game other than that of being a social activist?

Employing separate standards for subgroups makes absolutely no sense unless activists like Wilkins intend to suppress black students' achievement levels to further their socialist agenda.

Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report