"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Poor, The Immigrants, and the Testing Sanity Gap: When Will Decency Demand No Mas?

When my students watch School: A History . . . they are appalled to see education reformers of the early 20th Century administering IQ tests to immigrant children, many of whom could not even read the test they were taking and most of whom would be shunted into work training as a result of those predictable test scores that labeled them as imbeciles or morons. Their fates were sealed before they could understand what had happened.

This Fall when we view that disturbing film history, my students will be able to fast forward a hundred years to see that those who do not recall the past are, indeed, doomed to repeat it. Or perhaps it is those who just don't give a damn about the past, or see the past, perhaps, as providing an efficient model for making sure today's poor and immigrant populations are left behind in poverty for another hundred years.

In today's New York Times, we find this story about the cowardly and unquestioning decision by state education officials of New York to force 90,000 English language learners in grades 3-8 to use the regular English language arts exam. Why? Because Margart Spellings demanded it and because the State and City are too cheap and cowardly to do otherwise. Here is a clip:

State officials said the decision would require about 90,000 children who speak limited English to take the regular exam in January. Students will continue to take the state’s math, social studies and science tests in a variety of foreign languages, officials said.

They also said they could not predict how many schools might fail to make yearly progress as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Law if many students score poorly on the English test.

Schools that fail to make adequate progress can be branded as needing improvement and sanctioned.

Not only will the predictable failures help add to Spellings' morbid and growing collection of failing schools to support her privatization initiatives, but these children who reside in New York City, the center of the world's "civililization," will be left behind as their classmates move on to the next grade. Who needs a racist IQ test developed by eugenicists when you have an off-the-shelf reading test that can be used to do the same damage and to repeat our earlier social sorting miracle? That round of social engineering based on raceology ended in the Holocaust. Where will this one end that has now clearly begun?

Will this be the year that Americans reclaim their public schools from the racists, nitwits, and corporate welfare artists? Or will that reclamation be led by the poor and the immigrant, those who still understand and appreciate the promise of American democracy?

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