Janresseger: Reduce Poverty and Ensure Equity: The Key to Education Reform Is Not the Common Core
Last week three prominent education and civil rights leaders confronted what has appeared to be a civil rights establishment defense of annual standardized testing as the necessary centerpiece of a reauthorized No Child Left Behind Act. John Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, Pedro Noguera of New York University, and Judith Browne Dianis, director of Advancement Project—a national racial justice organization, published an op-ed in The Hill in which they declared: “In recent weeks, a few national civil rights organizations including the National Council of La Raza, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of United Latin American Citizens and National Urban League have vocally opposed efforts to highlight the dangers of high stakes testing by students and parents opting out of annual assessments. United under the banner of the Washington, D.C.-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, these groups are urging parents to comply with annual testing requirements. We strongly disagree with their position.”
Jackson, Noguera, and Browne Dianis call Congress to focus the reauthorization of the federal education law on eliminating the opportunity gaps that federal policy in education was originally designed to address: “We now know students cannot be tested out of poverty….” “We should all remember that NCLB (No Child Left Behind) was originally enacted in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty. The measure was designed to compensate for disadvantages in learning opportunities between low-income and middle-class children. While it was never adequately funded, ESEA was envisioned as an ‘anti-poverty’ bill.” “Schools serving poor children and children of color remain under-funded and have been labeled ‘failing’ while little has been done at the local, state or federal level to effectively intervene and provide support. In the face of clear evidence that children of color are more likely to be subjected to over-testing and a narrowing of curriculum in the name of test preparation, it is perplexing that D.C. based civil rights groups are promoting annual tests.”
In his commentary for the Education Opportunity Network last week, Jeff Bryant proclaims the same theme in, Dumb Arguments About the Common Core Distract from What Matters Most. Bryant writes: “While it’s refreshing to see K-12 education become a prominent issue in the very early stages of the 2016 election campaigns, it’s unfortunate to see support for the Common Core—the contentious new standards adopted by most states—become the focus of the debate… For sure, inequity is a problem—if not the problem—in American schools. Inequities related to students’ race, ability levels, English language proficiency, and income characterize nearly every aspect of the outputs and inputs of the system. The achievement gap between white students and their black and brown peers has been at the center of education policy discussion for years. Students with learning disabilities experience a similar gap when compared with their mainstream peers. Racial discrimination also plagues school discipline policies resulting in black and brown students disproportionally being targeted for punishments, expulsions, and push-out into a school to prison pipeline. And many states discriminate against students on the basis of income by giving richer school districts more money than poorer ones.”
Suggesting that Democrats running for office should focus on other educational issues instead of the Common Core, Bryant writes: “If Democrats want to present real arguments for education equity, they should propose what the federal government should do about the 23 states who give richer school districts more money than poorer ones. They should call for measures to ensure the federal government fulfills its original promise to fund 40 percent of special education services (it has historically provided only 18.5 percent or less). They should explain how a federal administration rededicated to equity would intervene in the twin crises of black males and females being pushed out of education into the criminal justice system. They should propose plans for federal support of community schools that can provide the range of education, health, counseling, and cultural services needed in communities traumatized by poverty.”
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