Friday, July 17, 2015

Test & Punish & Civil Rights

The Murphy Amendment (Premise: the worst parts of NCLB are actually the best parts; let's give them steroids) was one more manifestation of the Civil Rights Argument for Test and Punish. Amendment proposer Chris Murphy (D-Conn) invoked that justification for his test and punish bill, saying that ESEA "has to be a civil rights law."

Kati Haycock is president and founder of the Education Trust, a Gates-funded test-pushing advocacy group that supported NCLB and helped craft the Common Core. She took to her website to call Lily Eskelsen Garcia a liar for claiming that test and punish policies are not a civil rights win. Haycock is just one of the many civil rights advocates who speak out in favor of test and punish. But there is now a large coalition of civil rights advocates who speak out against test and punish, as well.

I've written about this again and again and again and again. But as the reformsters have found a strong tactical advantage in using the civil rights argument to promote test and punish, let me see if I can distill the important points of the argument here.

There Is a Real Concern

The systemic ignoring, underserving, and general neglect of non-white, non-wealthy populations is a real problem. "Do nothing" and "Go back to doing what we used to do" are not viable solutions.

Testing doesn't tell us anything we don't already know

Actually, test scores don't tell us much of anything, because the Big Standardized Tests are narrowly focused, poorly designed, and extremely limited in their scope. Furthermore, we can predict test score results pretty well just using demographic information. So to claim that we would be fumbling in the dark without these tests, with no idea of how to find schools that were in trouble, is simply ridiculous.

Nobody is sending help

Advocates argue that test scores provide political leverage that forces The System to respond. But from New Jersey to Philly to Detroit to Chicago, the response has been the same-- instead of help, politicians silence and disenfranchise the members of the community and privatizers come in to strip-mine the community for profit.

If policymakers responded to low test scores by sitting down with community members to say, "How can we help you," and channeling resources to the schools, I'd feel differently about all this. But that's not even sort of what's happening. Instead, charters may "save" a handful of students while simultaneously making the public schools even worse for everyone else.

P.S. Watch for cynical bullshit 

The Murphy Amendment included the famous "bottom 5%" clause, which is always a tip-off that vampires are at work. This is a guarantee that there will always be fresh meat, because even if all the schools in your city score between 95% and 100%, there will still be schools that are in the bottom 5% of that.

Test and Punish is a False Narrative

The claim is that there is a plane crash out there, and we can only find the victims by releasing the hounds. But the hounds are not rescue animals, but blind and deaf hunting dogs, and the smoke from the crash is clearly visible in the sky, and instead of sending doctors and rescue personnel, the powers that be are sending vultures while beating the doctors for not trying hard enough.

It's doubly anger-making because there are people who really do need our help, but instead of trying to actually help them, we've got people gaming the system in order to profit from the problem. This is not okay. And that's as simple as I can make it.

1 comment:

  1. Have to say that after reading the press releases from NCLR and Cory Booker yesterday on the Senate ESEA vote was truly disheartening. Their talking points are perfectly crafted b.s. and they are the same.

    So what is it EXACTLY that makes them believe this? Is just the money? La Raza has taken over $33million from the Gates Foundation. Booker is a charter school proponent. How do they not see the damage caused by NCLB?