When the Florida Board of Education voted this month to set different goals for student achievement in reading and math by race and ethnicity, among other guidelines, the move was widely criticized as discriminatory and harmful to blacks and Hispanics, the New York Times reports. But the state, which has been required to categorize achievement by racial, ethnic and other groups to the federal government for more than 10 years, intends to stand by its new strategic plan. Education officials say the targets, set for 2018, have been largely misunderstood. The end goal, they say, is that all students will be reading and doing math at grade level by 2023; the six-year goal is an interim step. The goals are calculated as part of a waiver granted by the federal government under its No Child Left Behind law. Florida is one of several states required to cut its achievement gap in half for all students by 2018, including those who are black, Hispanic, white, Asian, low-income, disabled or speak English as a second language…

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staff and wire services reports