January 21, 2013
Originally published: January 15, 2013
By Sherman Dorn
Today is the 84th birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. When he and other civil-rights leaders fought for equal schooling in the decades after World War 2, they never would have imagined the level of test preparation we see today, test preparation falsely justified in the name of civil rights. In the name of equal educational opportunity, Congress and former President George W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and in the past decade and more, school districts across the country have purchased test-prep booklets, mandated that teachers spend hours on narrowly-focused test preparation, and restricted access to the broader curriculum. Instead of supplementing the school day, test preparation has supplanted the general curriculum.
It is time we recognize that both the concrete resources and the time devoted to test preparation threaten the civil rights of students. When schools with low academic achievement receive test-prep booklets, the cost of those purchases is stolen from instructional materials for the general curriculum. When children with low academic performance find their classroom time occupied by activities that mirror multiple-choice test formats, that is a denial of access to a broad curriculum. When teachers, aides, school counselors, and others spend hours in early spring drilling students on test-taking techniques, that is time that children are not reading, are not learning about math and science and history, and are not experiencing or creating art or music.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has done nothing to stop the annual spring flood of test preparation. Repeatedly, President Obama and Secretary Duncan have given lip service to the dangers of “teaching to the test,” but I have seen the Administration take no specific steps to stop test prep where it endangers the education of the students most vulnerable to its effects. In this week, leading up to President Obama’s second inauguration, it is time for the Administration to step beyond uttering parent-pleasing phrases.
Today I have created a petition on the White House website, which by current Administration statements will draw an official response if it receives 25,000 signatures in the next 30 days. If you agree with me that anything more than minimal test preparation is a risky practice for young children, please read and sign the petition:
We petition the Obama Administration to recognize that test preparation can violate the civil rights of students.
President Obama has said he opposes teaching to the test. Test preparation interrupting the curriculum has no value beyond the test. Disadvantaged children are especially vulnerable to such test prep; these children are disproportionately affected by teaching to the test. The President should affirm the following:
1) Diversion of resources for short-term test score increases can materially violate students’ civil rights.
2) Student and personnel assignments for short-term score increases can violate students’ civil rights.
3) School employees are protected from retaliation when they complain about test prep’s disproportionate impact on students.
4) The Office of Civil Rights has the President’s support to address complaints of disproportionate test prep as civil rights violations.
To sign the petition (and to draft your own petition), you need to register first athttps://petitions.whitehouse.gov/register and then you can sign the January 15 petition on the threat that test preparation poses to the civil rights of students athttps://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/recognize-test-preparation-can-violate-civil-rights-students/WrVrkGl9.
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