Racial Impact of Testing

K-12 Testing
High-stakes testing and zero-tolerance programs continue to block minority students’ access to educational opportunities in schools across the nation according to a recent report by the Applied Research Center (ARC) of Oakland, California.

Based on evidence gathered from a variety of local and national education advocates and projects, Racial Profiling and Punishment in US Schools portrays a widening divide between minority and white students that is exacerbated by unfair testing and discipline policies. According to the study, students of color are more likely than their white counterparts to attend under-funded and crowded schools, are less likely to have credentialed teachers, and are more likely to suffer penalties from high-stakes testing requirements, including loss of future education and life opportunities.


The report calls for an end to high-stakes testing, a repeal of excessive discipline and security measures, and a redirected focus on practices and policies that produce equitable results, such as small class size and well-trained teachers. Districts should also be required to gather and disaggregate data about student achievement by race.


The report coincided with ARC’s National Day of Action for Racial Justice in Schools during which local activists held a variety of events to highlight racial inequity in public education. Many of these events focused on high-stakes testing.


• The report and a summary of the Day of Action events can be found at the Applied Research Center ERASE project at http://www.arc.org.


NAACP Call For Action
Call For Action In Education, a report from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), responds to continuing racial disparities in education and proposes a five-year equity plan. The report concludes that high-stakes testing for children exacerbates the impact of resource inequality and is “counterproductive” because it is linked to “increases in grade retention and dropouts.” Pressure to “‘teach to the test’ often impoverishes the curriculum.”


Accountability burdens should not be placed on children until they have an equal opportunity to learn, says the Call, and a moratorium should be put on high-stakes policies such as retention. “Schools should only hold students accountable for academic performance through the use of multiple assessment measures,” and assessment results should be disaggregated by race. Testing can play a useful role in accountability and in diagnosing student needs. Other K-12 recommendations address adequate funding, pre-school programs, small classes, well-prepared teachers, and reduction in dropout rates and expulsions.


See story on NAACP on higher education, p. 13


• Available at http://www.naacp.org/about/resources/publications/education_call_to_actn_2.pdf