A group called the Campaign for High School Equity made
news the other day when it criticized Arne Duncan’s NCLB waivers
and complained that the waivers might reduce the amount of
high-stakes testing for poor and minority students. Mike Petrilli
at the conservative think tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute
challenged me to admit that the civil rights groups were leading
the charge to protect high-stakes testing. I accepted his
challenge. It didn’t make sense, on the face of it, that civil
rights groups would want more testing. Every standardized test in
the world reflects socioeconomic status, family education and
income. Testing measures advantage and disadvantage. Some kids defy
the odds, but the odds strongly predict that the have-not kids will
be at the bottom of the bell curve. They will be labeled as
failures. They may get help, they may not. But one thing is sure:
standardized testing is not a tool to advance civil rights. Testing
is not teaching. Low scores do not produce more resources or higher
achievement. More testing does not improve learning. It increase
rote learning, teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, and
sometimes, cheating. So who is this group and why does it want more
testing. First,
the article that Mike forwarded to me
. It says that the
waivers are allowing too many schools to avoid the consequences of
being low-performing. In other words, the Campaign for High School
Equity prefers the draconian consequences of No Child Left Behind
and the punitive labels attached to schools based on high-stakes
testing. Of course, their statement also makes it appear that Arne
Duncan is trying to water down punishments and high-stakes testing,
when nothing could be further from the truth. Who is part of the
Campaign for High School Equity? It includes the following groups:
Urban League
Council of La Raza
Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Leadership Conference Education Fund
American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
of United Latin American Citizens
Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational
for Excellent Education
Indian Education Association
Asia Resource Action Center
Why are they in favor of
high-stakes testing, even though the evidence is overwhelming that
NCLB has failed the children they represent? I can’t say for sure,
but this I do know. The Campaign for High School Equity is funded
by the Gates Foundation. It received a grant of nearly $500,000.
Some if not all of its members have also received grants from Gates
to support the CHSE. The NAACP
received $1 million
from Gates to do so. LULAC
received $600,000
to support the CHSE. The Alliance
for Excellent Education received $2.6 million
“to promote
public will for effective high school reform.” The Leadership
Conference on Civil Rights Fund received
$375,000 from the Gates Foundation
to support CHSE. The
Association of Latino Appointed
and Elected Officials is
Gates-funded, though not for this specific program. The National
Indian Education Fund received
Gates funding
to participate in CHSE. The Southeast Asia
Action Center was funded by Gates
to participate in CHSE. The others are not Gates-funded.

When CHSE demands more high-stakes testing,
more labeling of schools as “failed,” more public school closings,
more sanctions, more punishments, they are not speaking for communities
of color. They are speaking for the Gates Foundation.

Whoever is actually speaking for minority communities and children of color is
advocating for more pre-school education, smaller class sizes,
equitable resources, more funding of special education, more
funding for children who are learning English, experienced
teachers, restoration of budget cuts, the hiring of social workers
and guidance counselors where they are needed, after-school
programs, and access to medical care for children and their