Imagine the widespread, righteous outrage that would ensue if, say, David Duke said that minority schoolchildren couldn’t do the same work as their white counterparts. The very notion is insulting and offensive. And yet the state of California effectively declared as much just seven years ago. Back in 1999, when it established the Academic Performance Index, which assesses student achievement, the state set the bar lower for schools with high concentrations of black students, English learners or poor kids. This is, to rip off a line from President Bush, a gross example of “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Implicit in the policy is the belief that certain groups are simply unable to compete at the same level. Rather than help disadvantaged kids strive for excellence, the state was content to consign them to perpetual mediocrity. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThe harm done is more than just in the stigma that comes with the low expectations. API goals are a key tool the state uses to identify and help underperforming schools. By setting improvement goals lower for schools with high minority, poor or English-learning populations, the state made it easier for those schools to continue failing without getting the special attention they needed. State bureaucrats could be happy that fewer California schools were officially failing, while the students suffered the consequences. “When we look backwards,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell says candidly, “we made a mistake by setting lower expectations for subgroups.” He can say that again. But credit O’Connell for owning up to a mistake and doing something about it. Wednesday, at O’Connell’s recommendation, the state Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind the policy, and start requiring schools to improve the performance of all groups. This is an important and overdue step – one that begins to correct a shameful chapter in California educational history. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!