The MAP test, and the AP test, and White Supremacy

6 Feb

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.


7 Responses to “The MAP test, and the AP test, and White Supremacy”

  1. this2shallchange February 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    This is great news about the NAACP. Hope the questioning can lead to discussion also about “gifted” programs that begin the tracking of students at very young ages.

  2. metrobusman February 9, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    Not so sure this is good news. It has been a long time indeed since the NAACP has been a cutting-edge black advocacy institution. If they were they would have gotten involved immediately. Boycotters beware.

  3. shadesofsilence206 February 9, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    thanks for posting this…..I was wondering if you could add more about how tracking is used to facilitate the school to prison pipeline….or how tracking is used with foster youth and runaways…. I highly doubt the NAACP will ever talk about this

    • mamos206 February 10, 2013 at 1:43 am #

      For sure. I agree with both of your critiques of the NAACP. I just read a great article about testing, tracking, class divisions in schools, and white supremacy. I’ll post up an excerpt and analysis as soon as I get a chance – unfortunately I only have a paper copy so I’ll have to transcribe it.

      In the meantime, if ya’ll would like to share your experiences and analyses of these issues, please feel free to use this as a forum -either in the comments or in guest posts.

      By the way, the Shades of Silence blog looks fantastic. Thanks for reposting our articles, and for the provocative articles ya’ll have written. I highly encourage other readers of this blog to check it out. They’re raising issues that are connected with a lot of what we’re discussing here:

  4. Doreen February 20, 2013 at 4:39 am #

    HI CnC folks,

    It was great to see you at Michelle Rhee protest tonight. Hope to see you tomorrow night at our forum in Columbia City. I’ve pasted the details before and hope you can share with your blog followers.

    Doreen McGrath

    Public Forum
    Race, MAP tests, and privatization:
    the fight for equality in public education

    Wednesday, February 20, 7:00pm
    New Freeway Hall, 5018 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle

    Bring your thoughts and opinions to a public forum with

    Special guest speaker Dr. Steven Strauss
    Dr. Strauss is a Baltimore-area neurologist and a Ph.D. linguistics scholar. As a speaker and writer on education issues, he brings an anti-capitalist analysis and the passion of a parent with two children educated in public schools. In 2011 he marched with Save Our Schools in Washington, D.C., to protest corporatization and high-stakes testing.

    Also featuring Matt Carter
    Carter is a 4th/5th grade teacher and one of 12 staff members at Orca K-8 who are boycotting the MAP test. He is a shop steward for the Seattle Education Association and a member of Social Equality Educators. As the parent of a son and a daughter at Orca, he has opted them out of the MAP test as well.

    Door donation $3, students $1, snacks served at 6:30pm for a $4 donation
    Sponsor: Freedom Socialist Party

    For information 206-722-2453 or
    To request childcare please call three days in advance.


  1. In the wake of the testing boycott: a 10-point proposal for teacher self-organization | Creativity Not Control - February 28, 2013

    […] white washed curricula, even if the school or district expects us to teach them.  We will have to challenge academic tracking, which tends to reproduce race and class hierarchies, as well as social events and dress codes that […]

  2. Testing, Schools and Class(room) Struggle | Advance the Struggle - March 7, 2013

    […] white washed curricula, even if the school or district expects us to teach them.  We will have to challenge academic tracking, which tends to reproduce race and class hierarchies, as well as school social events and dress […]

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