Kate Taylor of the Néw York Times wrote a balanced review of the debate about how standardized testing is viewed through the prism of race.

No Child Left Behind was premised on the claim that testing would raise up all children and close the achievement gaps between racial and income groups. Congress believed this, despite the lack of evidence from Texas, which supposedly had achieved miracle status by testing every child every year.

No one noticed that the high-performing nations of the world do not test every child every year.

In the not-distant past, civil rights groups filed lawsuits to block standardized testing on grounds that it is racially biased. They were right. It is no accident that standardized tests accurately reflect family income and parent education. This disadvantages kids from poor backgrounds, who cluster in the bottom half of the bell curve. And many of those so affected are children of color.

Why did some prominent civil rights groups demand that the new federal education law retain annual testing, even though it labels and stigmatizes many of the children they represent? I can’t say for sure. I don’t know. Either they still believe the lies at the heart of NCLB or they were persuaded by certain funders to argue that we need testing to keep measuring the score gaps.

It is important to remember that tests are a measure, not a remedy. Di we keep pouring millions or billions into testing but not spending on the remedies, like small classes.

Taylor’s article shows that there are black students, teachers, and scholars who understand that standardized testing is hurting, not helping, in the pursuit of equality. Some see it as a tool that widens the school to prison pipeline, since it marks many as failures even in elementary school.

One of the scholars quoted is Warren Simmons of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.

Simmons “said test scores can’t offer policy makers much guidance in the absence of qualitative assessments — of the curriculum, of teacher training, of the support a school is receiving from the district and state.

“Student testing is like using a thermometer to try to diagnose what kind of cancer an individual has,” Mr. Simmons said.”

Taylor