On his blog, Julian Vasquez Heilig explores how the federal courts have failed to confront the racially disparate impact of high-stakes tests.

When the courts were asked in Florida to recognize the unfairness of denying a diploma to students who could not pass the exit examination, in light of the racial disparities in passing rates, the federal court upheld the exams. Not only that, but the court held that the exam would help eliminate racism, even though black students failed the exam at a far higher rate than whites.

When the decision was appealed to the federal appeals court, it upheld the verdict Nd again treated high-stakes testing as a cure for racism. Here is the peculiar reasoning:

“…the diploma sanction is needed to remedy the present effects of past segregation in Florida’s schools. … the diploma sanction will motivate teachers and administrators, as well as students. Although the sanction is to deny the student the diploma, diploma denial reflects adversely on the teachers and administrators of the school system responsible for the student’s education. We think it is clear that teachers and administrators will work to avoid this stigma, thus tending to remedy any lingering lower expectations on the part of teachers (Debra P. v. Turlington 1984, p. 58.).”

Heilig believes that the same reasoning is found among today’s “reformers,” who think that they are defending the civil rights of minorities by subjecting them to standardized tests that have a racially disparate impact.