Saturday, October 29, 2016

Standardizing Whiteness: the Essential Racism of Standardized Testing - Badass Teachers Association

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Standardizing Whiteness: the Essential Racism of Standardized Testing


By Steven Singer, Director of BATs Blogging and Research

Originally published on his blog here

As a method of social production, as well as social reproduction, standardized testing has had serious cultural implications, not the least of which has been the eternal question of American identity. Consistent with notions of American identity, standardized testing, as an opposition to a cultural other, represents the normalization of whiteness, richness, and maleness.”-Andrew Hartman
“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
-Toni Morrison
We talk about standardized testing as if we don’t really understand what it is.
We say we want No child left behind!
And then we pass a law named after that very sentiment that ensures some students MUST be left behind.
We say we want Every student to succeed!
And then we pass a law named after that very sentiment that ensures every student will NOT succeed.
It would be absurd if not for the millions of children being forced to endure the harsh reality behind our pretty words.
It’s not these ideals that are the problem. It’s standardized testing.
Researchers, statisticians, and academics of every stripe have called for an end to high stakes testing in education policyParents, students and teachers have written letters, testified before congressional committees, protested in the streets, even refused to take or give the tests. All to deaf ears.
The federal government still requires all students in 3-8th grade and once in high school to take standardized tests.
But these assessments are graded on a curve. A certain amount of students are at the bottom, a certain amount are at the top, and most are clustered in the middle. This would be true if you were testing all geniuses or all people with traumatic brain injuries.
It doesn’t matter how smart your test takers are. There will always be this bell curve distribution. That’s how the tests are designed. So to talk about raising test scores is nonsensical. You can raise scores at school A or School B, but the total set of all test takers will always be the same. And some students will always fail.
But that isn’t even the worst part.
Standardization, itself, has certain consequences. We seem to have forgotten what the term even means. It’s defined as the act of evaluating someone or something by reference to a standard.
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