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NAACP protests distract from pursuing real solutions

Further demonstrating its irrelevancy to any serious discussion of public policy, the Louisiana National Association for the Advancement of Colored People protested for a second time in Baton Rouge that the promotional tests for fourth and eighth graders in Louisiana were “unlawful” and “unconstitutional.” This distractive rhetoric in part explains why black children disproportionately do poorly on these exams and serves as an impediment to improving the education of all children.

It’s a sign that a protester strives to prick at emotion rather than make a good-faith effort to solve a problem when words like “unlawful” and “unconstitutional” are tossed about without any sensible explanation of them to the matter at hand or even any connection to reality as in this instance. There’s nothing unlawful or unconstitutional about taking a test to demonstrate enough learning has occurred in order to proceed to the next level of mastery; nothing legally or constitutionally prohibits this. Indeed, the tests serve as an accountability measure to show how good of a job both students and schools are doing.

Although it does not have the audacity to explicitly clarify this, what the NAACP really objects to in terms of the tests is that disproportionately black children do poorly on them so many who “pass” their coursework cannot pass the exams. Thus, the protest is a thinly veiled assertion that somehow the tests are unfair, one potential explanation for gap in curriculum passage but test failure.

But if the exams are at fault, then we ought to see similar situations among all students. But non-black students are less likely to pass the classes and fail the tests, so it’s not a problem of instrumentation or the testing process. Rather, the other possible explanation for the gap, lack of rigor and quality in instruction in some schools, must be valid.

As it is, the majority of black students in Louisiana are taught in majority black schools whose staffs typically are plurality if not majority black in terms of both teachers and administrators. Apparently, this is where the problem lies so the NAACP needs to be criticizing in the main the very people it claims to represent.

Rather than blame some inanimate concept like testing, the NAACP needs to stop shooting the messenger and instead address the underlying cause. Only higher expectations of students, increased intellectual and pedagogical capacity of teachers, and expanded rigor will make for better educated students; they won’t become better by offhandedly declaring a measurement of their abilities is invalid and patting them on the back as they fulfill lower standards. State education officials are right to continue to employ testing to help continue improvement in Louisiana’s education; the NAACP’s actions prevent it this realization.

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