Laura Chapman explains the political force that fights to keep high-stakes standardized testing in place. It is puzzling that so many civil rights groups have demanded the retention of high-stakes standardized tests, because it is the children they represent who are labeled, ranked, and rated by tests that are normed on a bell curve and that invariably favor the most advantaged students. If ever there was a socially constructed instrument that does not advance equity or civil rights, it is the standardized test. I wrote about the history of standardized testing in my book Left Back. It is a story in which certain racial and ethnic groups were labeled as “inferior” based on IQ tests; those tests were the direct forerunner of today’s SAT. In fact, the first SAT was created by one of the pioneers of IQ testing, Carl C. Brigham, who was notorious for writing a book about racial differences that were revealed by IQ testing. The most constant correlation found with all standardized tests is between scores and family income: the higher the family income, the higher the test scores are likely to be.



Chapman writes:


This is one reason why the testing absurdities continue and who is supporting them.


Well before ESSA was passed, civil rights groups demanded the continuation of NCLB testing requirement. Several letters, with a changing number of signatories, were sent to Congress advocating the retention of NCLB tests.


Here are excerpts from the most recent The Advocacy Letter, dated after the passage of ESSA (01/21/16). It comes from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. It is addressed to the U.S. Department of Education


“ In direct response to the request for information regarding regulations to implement programs under Title I of ESSA, as discussed in more detail below, we encourage the Department to propose regulations regarding (the topics of) accountability, assessment, supplement not supplant, educator equity, data reporting, and inter-district resource equity.”


“State Accountability Systems
…in order for disaggregated data to be meaningful, “n-sizes” must be kept low so as not to hide student performance, as had been a practice in the past. It will be important to ensure that regulations reinforce the statutory requirements of identification and intervention in schools in each of the three categories identified in the law—the bottom 5 percent, schools with grad rates below 67 percent and schools with consistently low performing groups of students….


Regulations to implement the assessment provisions of the law should ensure that the 95 percent participation requirement is enforced so that the performance of all students is taken into account. It must be affirmed that the 1 percent cap on the alternate assessment applies to student participation in the assessment by subject….( and that) in order for disaggregated data to be meaningful, “n-sizes” must be kept low so as not to hide student performance, as had been a practice in the past.” ….”it will be imperative to ensure that assessments meet the highest standards of validity, reliability and comparability and that students with disabilities and English learners are fully included in the assessments with appropriate accommodations. These assessments should not be an excuse to provide vulnerable students with lower quality assessments or obscure disparities in student outcomes.” (last sentence was in bold face type).


This letter was signed by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (a group with over 200 members) with slightly more than 30 explicitly signing on.


Here is the list. Alliance for Excellent Education, American Association of University Women (AAUW), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) ,Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Children’s Defense Fund, Council of Parent , Attorneys and Advocates, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Easter Seals, Education Law Center – PA, The Education Trust, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of United Latin American Citizens, MALDEF, NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, National Center for Learning Disabilities, The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, National Council of La Raza ,National Disability Rights Network, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Indian Education Association, National Urban League, National Women’s Law Center, New Leaders, Partners for Each and Every Child, PolicyLink, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Stand for Children, TASH, Teach For America, Teach Plus, TNTP, UNCF, United Way Worldwide.


It is no small irony that the list includes many charter school supporters and that many charters schools work hard to exclude who have disabilities. It also well known that the Gates and other foundations provide operating and “advocacy” support for some of the groups so they will advance the policy preferences of Billionaires.