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Thompson: High Stakes Testing Is *Not* a Civil Right

The Education Trust's Katie Haycock, in Calling the Nation's Civil Rights Leaders Ignorant on Testing: Really? inadvertently illustrated the key issues involved in Common Core and Opt Out controversies. First, she blasted Marc Tucker for challenging her prime soundbite - that testing is a civil rights issue. Second, Haycock's venom shows how preoccupied she and many other reformers are with settling scores with teachers and policy people who resist their test, sort, reward, and punish approach.

Tucker's sin, in Annual Accountability Testing: Time for the Civil Rights Community to Reconsider, was calling on civil rights communities to reconsider the idea that annual testing is necessary to advance equity. He noted the critiques of testing by an array of highly respected education experts. Tucker also reminded civil rights leaders that the growth in student performance slowed after No Child Left Behind.  

Haycock responded by condemning Tucker's "arrogance" and accusing him of "subterfuge." Neither did she miss an opportunity to blast teachers unions that supposedly "dupe parents into sabotaging the best tests we have ever had just because those tests also are used in the evaluation of some teachers."

The essence of Haycock's tirade is:

What is so especially galling, though, is that Tucker’s attack is simply subterfuge for the real point he is trying to make, which is not about the accountability that the civil rights leaders have been working so hard to sustain. He doesn’t approve of the use of tests in teacher evaluation.

But, then she accidently points to a solution.

Haycock gets to the heart of the issue by asking:

What, you ask, does the civil rights leaders’ support of annual assessment and the responsibility of every school to act when the results show that any group of students is not progressing have to do with whether it is right to use tests in the evaluation of teachers?

Not a damn thing.

Precisely! The issue isn't testing. The issue isn't tests. The issue is using tests to punish individual students and teachers. The issue is the harm done by leaving No Child Untested with high-stakes tests.

We can debate whether annual testing or some other assessment systems provide the most accurate information on disparate outcomes.  We can agree to disagree on the metrics of the two sets of tools for achieving equity. We can reach an agreement on the best way to improve low performing schools.

By now, however, the demand that tests must be used to punish individual students and teachers can no longer be seen as beneficial to poor children of color. When Haycock et. al  keep insisting that school reform must be punitive, and, when they do so in such a vituperative manner, we see that their anger towards political opponents is overriding their efforts to improve schools-JT(@drjohnthompson) 

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