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LOOSE LIPS MAY BE HEADed down a slippery slope if he lends a loose ear to the “apartheid” rhetoric mentioned in “Hiding Test Scores” (5/19).
One hundred percent of D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) have African-American students enrolled in them. Wherever white, Latino, Asian, or Native American kids are achieving academically, they have African-American classmates who are likewise doing well. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is taken by fourth and eighth graders. Using the race classifications as reported on student membership forms, DCPS had, at the fourth-grade level: 5,179 black students, distributed over 100 percent of the elementary schools; 72 Asian students, distributed in 23 schools; 351 Hispanic students in 43 schools; and 268 white students in 25 schools. Among eighth graders, the distribution was as follows: 4,487 black students in all 27 middle and junior-high schools; 54 Asian students in 12 schools; 246 Hispanic students in 16 schools; and 148 white students in six schools. In that odd symmetry that entices otherwise rational folks out on statistical limbs, there were only six middle and junior-high schools that had zero racial diversity. Guess which ward had a school in each group? Ward 6! Egad! 666!!! Not only can the discussion of test scores lend itself to racial blathering, it can pull in demonic possession, too!
On May 18, Superintendent Franklin Smith was on WAMU-FM (88.5) and expressed his view that the nation’s capital should have a model school system. He has opted for higher expectations and more rigorous assessments. If Smith plans to use the NAEP scores to prescribe more demanding curricula and accountable teaching, he is welcome to exercise the option of not publishing scores from 1994.
If the scores are published in a meaningful school-by-school format, it becomes easy to determine which teachers received a class of literate students and worked full-throttle from September to midwinter, when the test was administered. The sad reality that I have observed as an active parent and PTA member in DCPS since 1980, and Smith has learned since 1991, is this: When teachers of low-scoring students become easy to identify, the condemnation of kids and their previous teachers becomes deafening. If the scores are published in any other format, they invite hasty conclusions that saddle the slim shoulders of 10- and 14-year-olds with racial baggage no one should have to bear.