The national turn towards a high-stakes testing-based system of education “is leaving millions of low-income students and students of color behind,” charged a coalition of national civil rights groups in a Tuesday letter to President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Congressional and State education leaders.
Putting forth a set of recommendations, the letter urges the government officials to consider a curriculum that is less tied to a standardized-test based “accountability system” and is more focused on “advancing opportunity and supporting school integration, equity, and improved accountability within our nation’s systems of public education.”
The letter comes as the Education Department under Duncan faces growing resistance to its widespread implementation of assessment-driven exams, with students, teachers and parents voicing growing discontent and staging walk-outs and other protests over the practice. Critics of high-stakes testing argue that the tests unfairly discriminate against minorities and less affluent students while “driving the professionalism out of teaching and the joy out of learning,” as the group Rethinking Schools wrote this spring.
“The current educational accountability system has become overly focused on narrow measures of success,” the group writes.
Citing the failure of certain education policies, such as the No Child Left Behind law, the letter notes that “concerns have been raised about overly punitive accountability systems that do not take into account the resources, geography, student population, and needs of specific schools.”
“It is time to end the advancement of policies and ideas that largely omit the critical supports and services necessary for children and families to access equal educational opportunity in diverse settings and to promote positive educational outcomes,” the letter continues.
The coalition—which includes the Advancement Project, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), National Opportunity to Learn (OTL) Campaign, National Urban League (NUL), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), National Council on Educating Black Children (NCEBC), National Indian Education Association (NIEA) and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)—issued a series of features which they say “are critical to an effective accountability system.”
“Equal and equitable educational opportunity for each and every child in America is not happening under our current education and accountability system, which is leaving millions of low-income students and students of color behind,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, in a statement on behalf of the coalition.
The full text of the letter is below: