Not Quite Sure What To Think About This

We had some standardized test consultant come to the school today. Every teacher traded some of their classroom time for a chance to listen to her. Near the end of my time at the font of the wisdom of all things scantron, I received instruction in a teaching method guaranteed to get all my kids to pass the BIG TEST. As proof of the method’s effectiveness, the consultant told me that she got it from a teacher in another parish who used it and everyone in that teacher’s classes (except the special ed kids, of course) had passed, and that was in a school in which all the kids were black and on the free lunch program.

What she was doing was telling me that the program was so good it could work in the worst of all school situations. Why though, did she use poor black schools as the illustration? 

The really bad answer would be, I guess, that this consultant honestly believes that black kids are inherently dumber than other races. In other words, she was telling me that if this method worked on those dumb blacks, it will work on anyone.

Or she could have thought that I was such a racist that this was the best way to impress on me the greatness of the method. Given that I’m not a racist and that she doesn’t know me from Adam anyway, this probably is not the answer.

The most likely answer is that she is just using “black and poor school” as a proxy for “really bad school.” As a general empirical matter, that’s probably accurate. Still, that a paid consultant could so casually use this proxy bothers me. Why? I don’t know. Probably because I’m sure there are excellent poor black schools. Maybe also because even though it may be factually correct that most poor black schools are bad schools, for some folks it’s too easy to accept that fact. Not just accept that it is accurate – “well sure the black schools are worse, they’re black schools” – but also too easy to accept as the way it is, and nothing can change it. In other words, though the the proxy may be generally accurate, there are less poisonous ways to describe bad schools than “poor and black.”

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One Comment on “Not Quite Sure What To Think About This”

  1. Del Says:

    I agree, “free lunch” would have gotten her point across admirably without mentioning the color of anybody’s skin. But, if I correctly understand how it works, the test-obsessed NCLB climate isn’t helping by insisting on color-group breakdowns in every evaluation. I envision a future where the kids are classified and grouped according to color chips, like the ones in the Avon catalog that help you choose your foundation. “Radiant Honey is up three points this quarter, but Golden Almond is lagging behind.”

    And I am SO effing sick of standardized tests, and with 2 kids stepping forward into the college application years, the frenzy is just getting started. Son looked up from his ACT prep book a few months ago and said with amazement, “Hey, they’re teaching you how to answer the question without even doing the math!” Yep.


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