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Sat Apr 30, 2016, 02:59 AM

Race and the Standardized Testing Wars


WHEN the parents of more than 200,000 pupils in the third through eighth grades in New York chose to have their children sit out standardized state tests last spring, major civil rights organizations were quick to condemn their decision, along with similar movements in Colorado, Washington and New Jersey.

Reliable testing results, they argued, broken down by race, income and disability status, were critical in holding schools accountable for providing equal education for all. By refusing to have their children participate, the parents were “inadvertently making a choice to undermine efforts to improve schools for every child,” according to a statement by the groups.

Because the families opting out were disproportionately white and middle class, testing proponents dismissed them as coddled suburbanites, while insisting that urban parents, who had graver concerns about the quality of their children’s schools, were supportive of the tests. Earlier this year, proponents of testing began using the hashtag #OptOutSoWhite — a spin on the #OscarsSoWhite social-media campaign — to suggest that testing opposition was a form of white privilege.

Yet as testing season unfolds this year, the debate is becoming murkier. More minority educators, parents and students are criticizing the tests, opening a rift with civil rights groups and black and Hispanic educators who support testing, like Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

Their complaints are wide-ranging. They argue that the focus on testing has forced struggling schools to cut back on enriching programs like field trips and arts education. Some view testing as part of a larger agenda, driven by test companies and opponents of teachers’ unions, that seeks to wring profits from education while closing public schools and replacing them with non-unionized charter schools. Others say that the tests are damaging to students’ self-esteem, because students interpret low scores as proof that they are inferior and destined to fail.


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Arrow 8 replies Author Time Post
Reply Race and the Standardized Testing Wars (Original post)
pnwmom Apr 2016 OP
Uponthegears Apr 2016 #1
pnwmom Apr 2016 #3
Uponthegears Apr 2016 #5
wildeyed Apr 2016 #2
Starry Messenger Apr 2016 #4
pnwmom Apr 2016 #6
Starry Messenger Apr 2016 #7
pnwmom Apr 2016 #8

Response to pnwmom (Original post)

Sat Apr 30, 2016, 08:39 AM

1. May I disagree?


Standardized testing has one purpose and one purpose only, to destroy public education and to replace it with job training. It is being sold to different demographics with different (and often diametrically opposed) marketing campaigns. Its proponents have used an universal value (the love of knowledge) to split not just liberals along race lines, but to split us among class lines. Most tragically, it has been used by the white power structure to shift the blame for social "ills" within certain communities (which are the INTENDED result of 400+ years of slavery, 100+ years of overt institutional racism, and another almost 100 years of (semi) covert institutional racism) to the backs of teachers.

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Response to Uponthegears (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 30, 2016, 04:55 PM

3. I encourage you to read the article. Some of the people in it are making your point.

For example:

A group of black parents in Philadelphia who planned to have their children opt out of the Pennsylvania state tests were featured recently on an education podcast called “Have You Heard.” They objected to the amount of money being made by the test-making companies and suggested that schools focused on testing were not cultivating students to be leaders.

“What we end up doing,” one mother said, “is creating a bunch of soldiers that, in order to pass, in order to get out of whatever their situation is, they will follow directions. And we will have a community of people that merely follow directions.”

And I agree with your point of view, FWIW. These tests are mostly being used to maintain the status quo, and to justify it.

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Response to pnwmom (Reply #3)

Sat Apr 30, 2016, 05:43 PM

5. Great point



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Response to pnwmom (Original post)

Sat Apr 30, 2016, 04:50 PM

2. Low test scores are mostly a reflection

of the endemic poverty and racism we allow in this country. It is not the teachers, students or parents fault. It is OUR fault, as a culture, for allowing children to suffer in poverty the way we do and allowing the school system to resegregate. We know better. We just don't care.

With the MRI technology now available, it is very well documented what stress of poverty does to a developing brain. We can SEE it on the scans. And it correlates with ADD-like symptoms, a greater likelihood of mental illness and a loss of 10-20 IQ points. Some of that improves if the stressors are taken away, but not all. So basically, we are giving these kids a brain damage. And then blaming the teachers, pretending like greater accountability through standardized testing will really help Bandaid on a gushing wound, IMO.

Until we, as a country, step up and do something to fix the underlying problems, I don't have much hope.

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Response to pnwmom (Original post)

Sat Apr 30, 2016, 05:32 PM

4. CA has shortened their tests considerably.

I have a weird job where I am an adjunct who teaches onsite at a high school in a dual enrollment program. I actually teach at my old high school. I teach Ceramics, so my subject doesn't get tested. I appreciate having more of this month to actually teach and not have worn out and cranky students.

I was shocked, as an adult, to begin working at my old school and find that the entire month of April was practically devoted to the STAR test. We didn't have that in the 80's. Of course, we also had tracking and other racial divisions in education. I understand that the testing and other reforms came as a result of racist bad practices in many schools. But then they also got turned into a club, via VAM evaluations, to break the teachers unions. Testing didn't appear to lead to better education, just cuts to all the programs that don't get tested.

(Also, there is dispute that these tests are even scored accurately. The companies use fudging to hit certain benchmarks, a whole other can of worms.)

CA is now facing a shortfall of around 22,000 teachers, last I saw. A lot of it is from joyless bullshit like this. Teachers here predicted this and got shouted down. Will the doing away of the STAR test, & overturning Vergara and Friedrichs help attract teachers again? Will policy makers realize that paying teachers poorly and stripping them of autonomy degrades the profession and does not attract the folks you need to be in front of kids of color to provide educational equity, hopefully more teachers of color?

Anyway, that's my feelings from the cheap seats.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #4)

Sat Apr 30, 2016, 05:45 PM

6. I learned about how stupid tests can be when my oldest was in kindergarten.

She was given a "pre-reading" test, and her score indicated that she fell in the bottom third and might have reading problems in first grade. Then I learned how they made the test. They administered it to a large number of children, and looked at the median scores of those who became good readers, and those who didn't, and decided that those numbers would define the good readers and the not-good ones from then on. But those ranges overlapped; so many of the good readers from the initial testing -- those who fell below the median -- would by this test today be flagged as a potential problem reader.

Also, it was a timed test and involved an activity that was affected by my daughter's left-handedness.

In any case, her teacher told me the test was silly because she was already one of the top two readers in the class. She went on to get a PhD, so she did fine. But that was just the first test of many that my children took that didn't give a helpful evaluation.

(E.g., another child was colorblind and the test didn't account for that.)

Bottom line is that the tests are often flawed and don't measure what they're supposed to measure. Unfortunately, many parents and teachers and administrators don't understand this and the children can be the ones to suffer as a result. Meanwhile, the test companies keep making money.

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Response to pnwmom (Reply #6)

Sat Apr 30, 2016, 07:37 PM

7. I hated seeing how tired my students were by the end of April.

I hope this movement leads to an overall cutback in high-stakes testing. There have to be better assessment methods.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #7)

Sat Apr 30, 2016, 07:51 PM

8. As a parent I was very aware of the bind teachers were in, and tried not to make it any worse!

My children were spread out in age, so I saw a full swing of the pendulum while they were in elementary. By the time my youngest hit first grade, the teachers were under so much pressure -- and many of the best took early retirement, rather than deal with all the nonsense.

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