ColorLines magazine just released their list of “10 Racial Justice Wins for 2013”—and it is impressive.
In a year when George Zimmerman was permitted to legally lynch Trayvon Martin, it can be all too easy to overlook the hard work of racial justice activists around the nation who have scored important victories. Wins for racial justice include activist campaigns that compelled the Associated Press to drop the use the term “illegal immigrant” in its style guide, grassroots efforts that resulted in the FCC forcing private companies who run phone services in prisons to stop charging families a dollar per minuet to speak to incarcerated loved ones, the activism of the Dream Defenders occupying the Florida Governor’s office to demand an end to “stand your ground” laws, and…the victory of the MAP test boycott for high schools in Seattle!
It is a tremendous honor for the educators, students, and parents who joined the MAP test boycott to have our struggle listed among the major victories for racial justice in 2013.
Why was ending this egregious standardized test a victory for racial justice?
As Garfield High School teachers pointed out in our original statement detailing the reasons for the MAP boycott, this test does not respect the linguistic or cultural diversity of English Language Learners. As well, the test was used a gatekeeper for the Advanced Placement Program, an overwhelmingly white program in the Seattle Public Schools. Moreover, we pointed out that the millions of dollars that were being spent on the MAP test would be better spent providing direct services to students in an effort to close the opportunity gap in education.
What ColorLines also no doubt realizes is that high-stakes standardized testing is fueling the school-to-prison pipeline. A recent study by Boston University professor Kevin Lang, “The effect of high school exit exams on graduation, employment, wages, and incarceration,” reveals that the biggest impact of the increased use of high-stakes exams in the public schools has been increased incarceration rates.
Today, there are more African Americans behind bars than were slaves on plantations in 1850. It’s time we used our nation’s resources not to test and punish; not to endless rank and sort our youth; but provide them with small class sizes, tutors, authentic forms of assessment, cultural relevant curriculum, and other supports they need to succeed.
The MAP test boycott demonstrated that educators can insert their voice into the debate about education reform and rally and entire community to a better vision for the public schools.
It’s your turn to make history in 2014!