President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell continue to pull the issue of race into education. Every time they talk about the proficiency gaps in low-income schools, they fail to mention the very mechanism by which these gaps are allowed to flourish: standardized assessments. It’s a Catch-22 for a lot of folks. If you disagree with them or their minions, you are accused of not caring about black kids. If you agree with them, it looks like you are selling out traditional public school districts.
As Civil Rights groups speak out on the ESEA reauthorization, we already have veto threats by President Obama on either the House or Senate acts. He has not come right out and said it, but he is given strong notions he doesn’t support either legislation. Arne Duncan is pulling the Urban League president to support not getting rid of standardized assessments. Delaware Governor Jack Markell openly said he “doesn’t like” a parent opt-out bill that would codify a parent’s right to opt their children out of the state standardized assessment, citing as one of his reasons that minority children would be disadvantaged.
I take great issue with even the tiniest implication that I don’t care about minorities. As my son is a special needs student, he already is a minority just by the very nature of his rare disability. Many of the children in the schools that need TRUE help the most, have all three: poverty, disabilities, and a minority status.
The bottom line is this: there is far too much federal and state control in education. The result of this is students who are tested incessantly, teachers who are judged based on these test scores, and an out of control charter school industry that doesn’t play by the rules and the states and feds allow it. By openly stating the bottom schools aren’t doing well in the environment Obama, Duncan, and many state governors created, is all the proof we need that what we have now just isn’t working.
As Smarter Balanced and PARCC scores start to trickle in from assessments given in Spring, we are seeing these great tests are no better than what came before. It will show standardized assessments with high-stakes are not a true measurement of student’s abilities. But it will show they need improvement, allowing more state and federal dollars to go to “consultants” who will “fix” our schools. And the cycle does on and on, unless Congress finally steps up and does what is truly right for America’s public school students.
The first step they need to take is implementing all promised Title I and IDEA funding as originally approved. Until they do that, nothing is going to improve for low-income, minority, and students with disabilities until they get the proper resources they need: lower classroom sizes, more special education services tailored for their individual IEPs, more education regarding these issues to educators and staff, and true educator-parent-student relationships with a collaborative effort. It doesn’t matter what you call a curriculum or a standard, if you don’t have the basics down in terms of having an equitable school, nothing else matters.