Published November 15, 2012 at Rock River Times
In February 2010, Hannah Workman was a fifth grader and straight-A student in Florida’s Clay County School District. She was denied entrance to her elementary school’s gifted program because she did not score highly enough on the entrance exam. While that is unremarkable in and of itself, her mother later learned that Hannah would have scored highly enough to enter the gifted program if her family earned less.
The standards on the entrance exam, she discovered, were based on income level and English proficiency. Students who qualified for free or reduced lunch or who spoke limited English only had to score in the 90s to qualify, while other children needed to score at least 130.
Though seemingly a minor footnote in the story of America’s public schools, the testing policy of this Florida school district cuts to the core of the philosophical debate over the role of education raging among educators and policy makers. It reveals much about the changing definition of “fairness” and the problem with using publically-funded education to redress social inequality.