The Test Made For White Kids, Not Black Kids

I get it now.  A few months ago I was discussing parent opt out with an African-American friend of mine.  He explained to me that African-American students don’t do well on standardized tests because they’re written for white kids.  I disagreed with him.  I couldn’t grasp what was right before my eyes.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment was made for white kids.  Civil rights groups, usually backed by the Gates Foundation and other corporate education reformers, claim high-stakes standardized tests are important.  They say they need to understand where African-American students rank compared to their peers.  This only perpetuates the myth that these tests are necessary.  These groups vehemently opposed parents opting out of these tests because they claimed it would only continue pathways to discrimination.  Instead, the reality is staring them right in the face.  Standardized tests do show achievement gaps.  But not because they offer any solutions on how to close those gaps, but because they were written for a specific audience.

These tests fail to understand different minorities or cultures.  They were created from a white culture perspective.  They ask students to push themselves based on standards that don’t address poverty, low-income, special needs, violent environments, discrimination, segregation, or equity.  Even for white students, many who also deal with issues of low-income in our country, don’t perform well on these tests unless they are from more affluent areas.

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Charter Schools were supposed to be the savior of education.  They were supposed to offer unique new ways of educating students and be models of innovation.  Instead, at least in Delaware, they have served as incubators of discrimination, segregation, and racism.  We can’t ignore this fact any longer.  We have to address this as a state, head-on.

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In all likelihood, our charters are merely copying what happens in our regular districts.  We see that African-Americans in our traditional school districts do not fare any better on these tests.  Charter schools and districts with higher populations of white students do better on standardized tests.  This fact hasn’t escaped those who create these tests.  They know this.  Our politicians and education leaders know this as well.  This story isn’t new, nor is it shocking.  They have known this ever since standardized tests came about.  But we expect African-Americans to perform the same as their white peers.  If they don’t, our governments will label and shame the schools and teachers that administer these tests.  Why?  What is the point?

Education improvement programs make lots of money.  If a school isn’t converted into a charter under the accountability schemes brought to you by Education Inc., you better believe some company out there stands to make a tidy profit off “fixing” the “problem”.  In Delaware alone, a company called Mass Insight was paid $2.5 million dollars to help out six “priority schools”.  All inner-city schools with, you guessed it, very high populations of African-American students.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell said the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best test Delaware ever made.  If that is true, then it shows Delaware to be a very racist state because we allow this to continue.  Our Department of Education can throw out statistics and graphs until we are blue in the face, but the true facts are above, and in the article I did on low-income populations and Smarter Balanced proficiency.  I have no doubt students will gradually do better on these tests.  But not enough to give them the education they deserve.  Not enough for African-Americans to catch up to their Caucasian peers.  This isn’t defeat.  This isn’t accepting a status quo.  This is reality.  A test solely designed for one pre-dominant culture under the assumption that other sub-groups will catch-up is always destined for eventual failure.  Do we call that now?  Or do our policy-makers only look at the cost of the test and not the cost to the children of their state?

For parents of African-American students: How many pictures that show the same thing do you need to see?  Why are you continuing to let your children take a test that forces them to work harder to live to a different ideal and culture?  I’ve seen some of you point out that your children have predominantly white teachers.  If our schools and teachers are judged on a test that is written for white kids, and a white teacher is teaching a majority of African-American kids in a classroom, what do you think the results are going to show?  This test serves a dual purpose: to keep African-Americans down and to push those unionized white teachers out of public education.  If you want more African-American teachers in the future, how will today’s African-American youth even feel inspired to go into education when they are constantly told they are failures based on these tests?  These same tests that will eventually break down and morph into end of chapter tests, taken by students multiple times throughout the year.  This is not about helping students to become “college and career ready”.  It is an elaborate and long-term tracking system.  Think about it, and opt out until those in power change these pictures.  Look at those in your community who want this.  Follow the money.  Who are they speaking for?  Corporations or children?

Poverty & High-Stakes Tests = Oil & Water… Do You Get It Now?

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. -Albert Einstein

If you go to a charter school in Delaware without a lot of low-income and poverty, the chances are pretty good you will do better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Pictures don’t lie.  Yes, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, the odds speak for themselves.  Even the former “heroes” of Delaware like EastSide Charter School are not immune to the wrath of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

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Now you might be thinking, “you didn’t put in all the charters”.  I didn’t put in Gateway Lab School and Positive Outcomes.  Their populations are mainly special education and they did not do well on this test at all.  Freire and Great Oaks don’t have their low-income data on the DOE website.  Academia Alonso only goes up to 2nd grade so far.  Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware Design-Lab, Delaware Military Academy, and Early College High School are all high schools, so now Smarter Balanced for them!  And who knows where Delaware College Prep is.  I’m assuming their scores will be included with Red Clay’s when those come out, but they’re closing anyways.

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The traditional school districts didn’t have as drastic of a low-income impact on Smarter Balanced proficiency, but the data for each school in the districts won’t be out until next month.  That will give us a much better idea of how low-income status affects different schools.

It would be nice if the poor were to get even half of the money that is spent in studying them. -William Vaughn

To see how all the kids did in the state, take a look at the below fluff piece that was presented to the Delaware State Board of Education by the DOE’s Instructional and Accountability guru, Michael Watson.  While the participation rates may have gone up in a lot of schools, more parents were opting their kids out than last year.  And I believe that trend will continue when a lot of parents see their child still isn’t proficient on this test.  There has to come a point in time when parents start thinking this test really is bad and if I want my child to get a good education, it can’t be based on this test.

At this point, you have to ask yourself, if standardized tests are bad for teachers, and they’re bad for kids, who exactly are they good for? -John Oliver

As Delaware teacher Mike Matthews brilliantly pointed out to Governor Markell (see the article before this one), poverty has a huge effect on educational outcomes.  We can pretend it doesn’t, but until we somehow find a way to eliminate that, we will see the same results every standardized test tells us.  They are socio-economic indicators.  That’s it.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education will start flinging mud at a ton of schools, and we will fight them.  You can’t ignore these graphs, especially the charter schools.  They are more extreme because of enrollment practices.  We all know it.  Let’s stop pretending certain ones are great success stories.

My innovative education program will improve school accountability, fix our flawed state testing system and ensure school funds directly benefit Delaware’s children—and are not wasted on bureaucratic overhead costs. By attracting and retaining the best teachers through competitive salaries and benefits, we will improve classroom learning and reduce drop-out rates. We must expand early education programs and link preschools with local school districts to create a unified learning environment. -Jack Markell from his Blueprint For Delaware, 2008

You know, it’s amazing.  I’ve not yet met a single parent or teacher who tells me that their hopes and their aspirations for children are wrapped up in scores on high-stakes tests.  We have designed an education system that profits test-makers.  Now we need an accountability system that benefits the test-takers.  And as Governor, I will scrap the Delaware Student Testing Program and I will replace it with an assessment tool that helps teachers improve student learning. -Jack Markell at DSEA Primary Debate against John Carney and Mike Protack, 2008