Call to Civil Rights and Social Justice Organizations
In an article titled “Why the Academic Achievement Gap is a racist idea,” noted scholar Dr. Ibram X. Kendi cited the following: “Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black minds and legally exclude their bodies. However, some of the greatest defenders of standardized testing are civil rights leaders, who rely on the testing data in their well-meaning lobbying efforts for greater accountability and resources.” Kendi goes on in the article to cite historical evidence ranging from the origin of standardized testing by white supremacy embracing eugenicists in the 19th c to the current acceptance of a racial hierarchy “with Whites and Asians at the top and Blacks and Latinos at the bottom” based on test data from two disciplines: reading and math.
Describing the negative impacts of standardized testing, Dr. Denisha Jones, Director for The Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College, asked presidential candidate Joe Biden if he would end annual testing once elected. His response was yes. In contrast to his previous response, President Biden’s Department of Education announced that standardized testing, suspended in 2020, will occur in 2021. There is no consideration for the pandemic that has many students still in remote learning situations, has many that returned to school sites often sent home for quarantining due to exposure to the virus, has many contending with the illness and death of family members, has significant numbers of students unaccounted for and lost, has many students and educators in need of emotional support and services, and has school systems with reduced teaching staffs due to death, retirement, extended leaves and possible layoffs due to reduced funding. Moreover, there is no consideration for the fact that annual testing has not improved the intellectual development of students during the two decades that it has been in place. Sadly, civil rights leaders, as Dr. Kendi pointed out in 2016, continue to encouraged the use of K – 12 annual standardized testing even though there is overwhelming evidence that annual testing is more harmful than helpful.
To reiterate, as explained by Dr. Jones, standardized testing has evolved from a history of eugenics and white supremacy and continues to be racially biased and nonproductive in solving what has become an unfair racial and class hierarchy (whites and select Asian groups at the top with Black, select Asian groups, Latinos, second language, impoverished, and special needs at the bottom, as cited by Dr. Kendi. The continued promoting of the use of these worthless tests by civil rights groups will continue the trajectory of problem not solved, as the data collected on these annual tests are not accurate, timely, or useful in impacting any change. Nor, do they actually address the “accountability” sought after by civil rights organizations.
National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) testing provides enough data to satisfy the “accountability” factor by issuing a national report card on reading, math, and science without maligning communities, castigating educators with the fraudulent value-added measures in their annual evaluations, impeding high school graduation and third to fourth grade promotion for students in states that include these mandates, and creating an educational caste system that is damaging to our school community members. Besides NAEP, data collection focused on the following can do more in creating the change sought: funding sources and amounts, educator quality and experience, textual material use and quality, curricula quality and usefulness in scaffolding, technology types and quality, community support facilities and organizations, and school diversity of students and staffs. As these aspects are thoroughly examined and modified to fit school community needs, only then, will we see change.
The time is now to take a long hard look and recognize that standardized testing is deeply embedded structural racism in our public schools. And as we look, we must hold social justice organizations and equity agencies accountable for pushing a failed exercise that is antithetical to the civil rights of students, their educators, and their educational institutions.
Therefore, United Opt Out National is calling on civil rights and social justice organizations to get on board with a moratorium on annual testing 2021 and a permanent end to it as federal law.
United Opt Out National Administrators
United Opt Out National Administrators