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.
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.
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?