QOD: Civil Rights Groups Take on Anti-Testers, Including NEA

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This concerted effort by national civil rights groups to include annual standardized testing in a newly-authorized NCLB/ESEA bill (current title: Every Child Achieves Act) is in response to concerns that pressure from union lobbyists will convince legislators to scale back  testing and, thus, mask achievement gaps between high-income and low-income students,  minority students, and those with disabilities.

From the Washington Post:

The nation’s major civil rights groups say that federally required testing — in place for a decade through existing law — is a tool to force fairness in public schools by aiming a spotlight at the stark differences in scores between poor, minority students and their more affluent counterparts… 

I don’t think you can dismiss the role that assessments play in holding educators and states overall responsible for the quality of education provided,” said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella group of civil rights advocates that includes the NAACP and the National Urban League. 

States and school districts that don’t want to deal with the daunting task of improving the achievement of poor students complain about testing as a way of shirking accountability, Henderson said. “This is a political debate, and opponents will use cracks in the facade as a basis for driving a truck through it,” he said.

Also see this letter, published yesterday by the The Leadership Conference, which describes itself as “the nation’s premier civil and human rights coalition.” The letter is signed by many civil rights groups including the Children’s Defense Fund, NAACP, La Raza, The National Urban League, Education Law Center (Pennsylvania, not New Jersey!), National Indian Education Association, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Disability Rights Network:

We applaud maintaining the requirement for college or career aligned state standards, statewide annual assessment, disaggregated student achievement (including the 1 percent cap on using alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards to assess students with the most significant disabilities), and goals for achievement and high school graduation. These tools provide invaluable information to parents, communities, educators, advocates, and policymakers to help ensure all students an equitable and excellent education. The power of this reporting, however, is greatly curtailed by the absence of meaningful accountability. States must be required to identify schools where all students or groups of students are not meeting goals and to intervene in ways that raise achievement for students not meeting state standards.   

NEA President Lily Eskelson Garcia may want to take note: she’s on record claiming “that there appears to be almost no support among lawmakers and the public for continuing high-stakes
testing” and regularly tweets messages like “high stakes testing make it impossible for educators to instill a love of learning in their students.” The nation’s premier civil rights groups would beg to differ.

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