Civil rights group says Florida discriminates in standardized testing

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ORLANDO, Fla. - A national civil rights group says Florida's standardized testing system discriminates against black and Hispanic students.

Friday, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint saying the state's race-based education goals are discriminatory.

The group wants the Justice Department to prevent the state from implementing race-based goals this school year.

Under those goals, Asian students are expected to perform the best on standardized tests, but black and Hispanic students are expected to get lower scores.

That has civil rights activists crying foul.

Fourteen-year-old Robert Burns does not understand why Florida set the lowest education goals for black students, like him.

"I feel like they should raise the expectation," said Burns.

Under the policy approved in October, the state expects Hispanic students to do a little better. But the highest expectations are for white and Asian students.

Burns said his seventh-grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test reading score is proof that black students can rise to the occasion, as long as the bar is set high.

"The highest you can get was a 289. I got a 289 -- no questions wrong," said Burns.

His mother, Sheria Burns, said it is vital that her son be held to the same expectations as his peers of other races.

"We already have a lot of stereotypes in our society. Why should we set more for our kids?" said Sheria Burns.

Former President George W. Bush condemned race-based goals as "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

"If you lift expectations high, our children will reach as high as you pull them," said the Rev. Charles McKenzie, of the Rainbow Push Coalition.

Robert Burns says that is exactly what worked for him.

Channel 9 contacted the Florida Department of Education about the  complaint and was told that department officials have not yet reviewed it.

A spokesperson did say Florida has made incredible gains in closing the achievement gap for two consecutive years.