The Seattle Weekly reports that the NAACP has joined the struggle against the MAP test:
In addition to broad concerns over what results of the MAP test actually reflect, the local branch of the NAACP has specific concerns regarding the Seattle School District using the computerized test to determine which students are placed in advance courses – a practice the NAACP says can lead to an “inequitable result” for children of color and those living in poverty.
This is a great point,and I’m glad the NAACP is joining the fight. But I think we need to go further, and question the very existence of tracking systems in schools, and how they reproduce institutionalized racism/ white supremacy. For example, Garfield High is in the historically Black Central District, a neighborhood which has gentrified with an influx of middle class white families. Many Black families have been pushed out by rising rents, and some of the new white families push for increased police surveillance and harassment of youth of color. How does this play out at Garfield? Who controls the school – the gentrifiers, or the Black community? How many Black students are in Garfield’s Advanced Placement (AP) classes?
Furthermore, the Advanced Placement tests given at the end of AP classes are also standardized tests with their own cultural biases. For example, overemphasizing AP tests can push high schools to cling to a eurocentric (white dominated) approach to social studies instruction. In other words: there is no AP Black History.
I used to teach African and Asian studies at a borugie prep school. There was tremendous pressure for seniors to take AP European History so they could get into elite colleges. On about the third or fourth day of the semester, I soon realized that my “ethnic studies” classes were considered the “easy” alternative to the more “serious” AP classes. Many student athletes had been informally tracked into African studies and considered it a “jock class”. I remember discussing and analyzing that with my students. I made it clear that African history is just as important as European history, even if it doesn’t prepare you for getting a 5 on a prestigious AP test. I made that class just as rigorous as any AP European History class, but also a lot more creative, because we didn’t have to focus on test prep lessons.
Black Student Unions at schools like Garfield fought hard against these kinds of racial hierarchies and white-washed curricula. As the boycott of the MAP test unfolds, I hope these dimensions of the struggle for equality continue to be central.