I'm sure their hearts were in the right place, but the people who planned these rallies didn't use their heads. Actually, I'm not sure their hearts were in the right place. I think they just wanted to manipulate kids into scoring higher on tests.
All the kids should have been together to enjoy jazz and other cool music from people of various races. It actually sounds like the white kids got the worst pep talk. They surely should have been given something more than test scores to strive for. The goal is to learn a lot in order to accomplish a lot in life, not just to score well on a test to make administrators happy.
Maybe what we need is basic thinking skills testing for administrators.
Cheers and Jeers
by Simpson, Nadine
While one California principal turns to race-based pep rallies to make a difference in high-stakes testing, educators are finding better ways to make their voices heard about NCLB.
HERE'S JUST ANOTHER example of how pressure to meet demands of the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) has some administrators making unusual decisions: This past school year. Black students walking into a pep rally at Mount Diablo High School in Concord, California, were greeted with jazz and Martin Luther King Jr. posters, while their Asian and Hispanic peers were sent to separate pep rallies. And White students? One told a local paper that organizers opened her rally by calling the kids "White people," then flashed slides with recently released state standardized test scores, encouraging them to aim even higher in the future.
The segregated pep rallies suggest that no matter how hard educators work to help their students bridge the achievement gaps, it's not always enough for antsy administrators.
Mount Diablo High's principal doesn't see what the fuss over the pep rallies is all about-and there most certainly was one when news of the events became public. Beverly Hansen says the assemblies were meant to inspire students to do better while being honest about the differences in test scores among racial and ethnic groups. She says she doesn't know why parents are so upset; racial statistics have been reported for years and those categories were simply represented in the numbers that were given to the students at the events.
That doesn't wash with Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy. "It's segregation by race, whatever the motivation," he says, adding that the booster sessions show the pressure on educators to increase test scores at all costs. "Separate sessions of students, separated by race, is not a wise decision. One of the purposes of public education is to bring students together to form a common citizenry, and when students are separated by race, public schools are sending a different signal."
NEA is working to send lawmakers a strong signal as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as NCLB, comes up for reauthorization. For more on how NEA is lobbying for effective changes to the law-including using more than test scores to measure student learning and school performance-check out the Association's Positive Agenda for ESEA Reauthorization at www.nea.org/ref7agenda.
- NADINE SIMPSON