Over 200 Civil Rights Groups & Organizations Urge U.S. Senate To Ban High-Stakes Testing, Halt Charter Expansion, & Give Full Title I Funding

Yesterday, 175 Civil Rights Groups and associations of the Journey For Justice Alliance wrote the U.S. Senate about their demands for reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act.  This is in sharp contrast to the small number of civil rights groups who have spoke out against parent opt-out the past few months.  These groups say what so many of us have been saying all along: high-stakes testing is extremely dangerous for students  with low-income and/or minority status and students with disabilities.  From the press release, announced today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

July 7, 2015

CONTACT: Rachel Tardiff, Rachel@FitzGibbonMedia.com, 202.746.1507

Nearly 200 Civil Rights, Community Groups Send Letter to Senate Demanding Fair & Equitable Reforms to ESEA Reauthorization

Groups Highlight Disproportionate Consequences of Testing for Black & Brown Students, Demand End to High Stakes Testing in Public Schools

This week, the Journey for Justice Alliance—a coalition of parents, students, teachers, and community & civil rights organizations—along with 175 other national and local grassroots, youth, and civil rights organizations, sent a letter to Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid demanding that high stakes tested be removed from the civil rights provisions within the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill currently being debated in Congress. Instead, the groups are calling for an end to school closures and privatization and investment in sustainable community schools with well-balanced assessments and challenging and varied curriculum.

In the letter, the groups state: “We respectfully disagree that the proliferation of high stakes assessments and top-down interventions are needed in order to improve our schools.  We live in the communities where these schools exist.  What, from our vantage point, happens because of these tests is not improvement.  It’s destruction.”

Read the full letter here: http://www.j4jalliance.com/media/openletter/

The letter continues: “High stakes standardized tests have been proven to harm Black and Brown children, adults, schools and communities. Curriculum is narrowed. Their results purport to show that our children are failures. They also claim to show that our schools are failures, leading to closures or wholesale dismissal of staff.  Children in low-income communities lose important relationships with caring adults when this happens. Other good schools are destabilized as they receive hundreds of children from closed schools. Large proportions of Black teachers lose their jobs in this process, because it is Black teachers who are often drawn to commit their skills and energies to Black children.  Standardized testing, whether intentionally or not, has negatively impacted the Black middle class, because they are the teachers, lunchroom workers, teacher aides, counselors, security staff and custodians who are fired when schools close.”

 “The organizations that join us in this letter represent thousands of students who have peacefully walked out of school to protest discriminatory practices, the tens of thousands of parents who have protested school closings and demanded equity.  These are the people who know that they don’t have the choice of a strong neighborhood school. They know that we deserve better,” said Jitu Brown, the director of the Journey for Justice Alliance.

The groups reaffirm four primary ESEA demands established in a letter sent by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS)—a signatory on this week’s letter—to House and Senate leadership in March. Those demands include:

·      $1 billion in funding to increase the number of sustainable community schools, which provide an array of wrap around services and after school programs and engaging, relevant, challenging curriculum while supporting quality teaching and transformative parent & community engagement;

·      $500 million for restorative justice coordinators and training to promote positive approached to discipline;

·      Full resourcing of Title I of the ESEA, including $20 billion in funding this year for schools that serve the most low income students, building to the 40% increase in funding for poor schools originally envisioned in the legislation;

·      A moratorium on the federal Charter Schools Program.

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Journey for Justice (J4J) is an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations demanding community-driven alternatives to the privatization of and dismantling of public schools systems and organizing in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and nationally, for an equitable and just education system.

In reviewing the list of organizations on the website, I see NO mention of any Delaware Civil Rights groups or organizations.  In fact, they have openly opposed the parent opt-out bill, House Bill 50, even going so far as to take out a full-page ad along with The Rodel Foundation and the Delaware Business Roundtable, who have long supported charter expansion and high-stakes testing in Delaware.