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Tests Gather Same Data for Decades… and Self-Evident Problems are Overlooked

April 19, 2016

Sabrina Joy Evans, a writer for The Progressive, wrote an article earlier this month that illustrates the mindlessness of the reasoning for the wholesale testing of students. Titled “How Can More Testing Lead to More School Equity? It CAN’T”, Ms. Evan’s article lambasts the current rationale behind testing:

After years of increasingly successful organizing against test-and-punish education “reform” as widespread dissatisfaction with testing has led to increasing numbers of families declining the tests, proponents of high-stakes testing have increasingly leaned on one particular argument in an attempt to shut down opposition: the idea that we need high-stakes testing to fight for equity between whiter, wealthier students and students of color/students living in poverty. 

Ms. Brown is rightfully disdainful of this argument. Why?

The differences in learning conditions for rich versus poor students, and in majority-white schools versus schools where the majority of students are of color, are as stark as stark comes. In privileged communities, students attend beautiful, healthy schools with diverse curricular offerings, up-to-date materials and technology, nurses, counselors, librarians and support staff to bolster the work of classroom teachers. In low-income communities and many communities of color, students are offered the exact opposite. And this has long been the case. 

This notion that test results can help identify disparities has been around for at least 45 years and now with Big Data upon us some of the technology gurus think that if we had more and better data we’d not only be able to identify learning gaps, we’d be able to close them. But how can data help a child being raised in poverty? How can data help a child whose single parent is a drug addict How can data help a homeless child? And how can data provide equitable staffing, equitable facilities, or equitable learning environments? It can’t.

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