Just the other day, I saw a picture on my friend’s twitter feed. The picture was of lyrics to a 3rd grade chant to the tune of rapper Ace Hood’s song “Bugatti.” “I came to 3rd grade with some questions. And then my teachers taught me lessons. Then they gave me some suggestions. Now it’s time for FCAT testin’.” The chant is being used to help children in Florida prepare for our state’s standardized test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). This test determines whether students will be able to enter the next grade level and eventually graduate with their high school diploma. Because of low performance on the FCAT, so many of my family members and friends have either had to repeat several grades, or decide to drop out of school. Across the nation, a significant number of schools in minority communities are facing potential closure due to their students’ low performance on standardized tests. One reason for the significant number of school closings: performance on standardized tests determines how much money is poured into our schools.
This is disheartening considering the fact that traditionally, African American and Hispanic children have scored lower on standardized tests including college entrance exams. For example, the College Board reported last year that SAT scores have continued to drop and racial gaps still exist. 80% of white students who took the SAT completed the core curriculum. However, only 69% of Hispanic students and 65% of African American students did. For the ACT, the average score last year was 21.1. For white students, the average was 22.4. For Hispanic students, the average score was 18.9 and 17.0 for African American students.
In some cities, there has been a backlash in regards to standardized testing. At Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, the alma mater of Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones, teachers voted to refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Test. In Providence, Rhode Island, a group of 50 high school students staged a “zombie protest” in which protesters chanted “no education, no life.” There’s even a National Opt Out Movement that was created last year after the ten year anniversary of “No Child Left Behind.”
Well, what do we do now? Change has to occur at our schools and in our communities. We must enhance our curriculums to foster collaboration and adaptability to a variety of teaching styles. This includes making sure we meet our children’s technology needs to prepare them for computer-based testing. We can’t just teach for the FCAT or MAP, we must teach for the future to prepare our students to not only pass the next grade but prepare for college and the real world. My challenge to you: get involved at the local level. Become a teacher, PTSA parent, attend your local school board meeting, run for a school board position, and voice your opinion. Remember, “It takes a village to raise a child.”