In a recent article, the Obama administration is entertaining the thought of reducing standardized testing as a requirement for No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind is a failed attempt at equalizing the playing field for schools, teachers, and students. “Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality and from equity” (Former Senator Paul Wellstone). The Obama administration can help Black students failures by first addressing the standardized testing inequalities before proposing a reduction in quantity.

According to the article, President Obama Plans to Limit Standardized Testing, the executive branch and Capitol Hill are re-evaluating how testing should impact the states. According to Obama’s video posted on Facebook, “Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble“. He went to specifically reach out to his home state by saying “Cleveland schools need to spend more time making sure district tests are not redundant and are both useable and used to inform instruction”. The federal government can not force states to follow new policies. However, they can attach requirements to funding that states are qualified to receive. Even though many of these requirements are targeted at supplementing the education of historically underserved children, the fact remains that these policies have proven ineffective for Black students.

What is the history of standardized testing that has proven ineffective for Black students?

Standardized testing is used in every school across the United States in almost every grade level. Some of the test include Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) are standardized tests provided by the College of Education of the University of Iowa. The tests are administered to students in kindergarten through eighth grade. According to a recent ITBS Research Guide, White students have outperformed Black student on the ITBS since 1977.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what students in America should know and can do in the core subjects. NAEP is a mandated project by congress. The NAEP is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education. White students have outperformed Black students on the standardized test since 1969.

All of the state sponsored standardized testing mirrors the same format as the ITBS and the NAEP which appears to be detrimental to many Black students.

What type of learning formats will benefit Black students who are mandated to participate in standardized testing?

Written demonstration, such as standardized tests, are consistent with mainstream American and European student mastery that is contrary to culturally different student learning styles. Students who find their culture and learning styles reflected in education are more likely to be motivated for success.

Blacks prefer a socially interactive environment. Black students work and function better in cooperative, informal, and loosely structured environments where teachers and students work together to achieve a common goal. Blacks prefer tactile hands-on learning activities, affective materials to facilitate their learning, approximate time, number, and space activities, and sort word lists by their functional value.

Blacks have developed a specific method of organizing and processing information that provides a disadvantage to Blacks in school settings. Black thinking style differs from other groups due to Blacks using the right hemisphere of the brain. Black thinking is more holistic, intuitive, and integrative when processing information, and Black students approach thinking from an intuitive perspective rather than the logical-mathematical approach. Blacks are more analytical regarding concepts and ideas when they evaluate information from their particular orientation. Blacks are highly creative thinkers who prefer deductive reasoning but have the same reasoning styles as other groups.

The Obama administration and standardized test manufactures should take a closer look at making the experiences more beneficial for all students rather than a reduction in quantity.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

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