This letter was issued on July 7, 2015.
“We respectfully disagree that the proliferation of high stakes assessments and top-down interventions are needed in order to improve our schools. We live in the communities where these schools exist. What, from our vantage point, happens because of these tests is not improvement. It’s destruction.”
Nearly 200 Civil Rights, Community Groups Send Letter to Senate Demanding Fair & Equitable Reforms to ESEA Reauthorization
This week, the Journey for Justice Alliance—a coalition of parents, students, teachers, and community and civil rights organizations—along with 175 other national and local grassroots, youth, and civil rights organizations, sent a letter to Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid demanding that high stakes tested be removed from the civil rights provisions within the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill currently being debated in Congress. Instead, the groups are calling for an end to school closures and privatization and investment in sustainable community schools with well-balanced assessments and challenging and varied curriculum.
In the letter, the groups state: “We respectfully disagree that the proliferation of high stakes assessments and top-down interventions are needed in order to improve our schools. We live in the communities where these schools exist. What, from our vantage point, happens because of these tests is not improvement. It’s destruction.”
The letter continues: “High stakes standardized tests have been proven to harm Black and Brown children, adults, schools and communities. Curriculum is narrowed. Their results purport to show that our children are failures. They also claim to show that our schools are failures, leading to closures or wholesale dismissal of staff. Children in low-income communities lose important relationships with caring adults when this happens. Other good schools are destabilized as they receive hundreds of children from closed schools. Large proportions of Black teachers lose their jobs in this process, because it is Black teachers who are often drawn to commit their skills and energies to Black children. Standardized testing, whether intentionally or not, has negatively impacted the Black middle class, because they are the teachers, lunchroom workers, teacher aides, counselors, security staff and custodians who are fired when schools close.”
“The organizations that join us in this letter represent thousands of students who have peacefully walked out of school to protest discriminatory practices, the tens of thousands of parents who have protested school closings and demanded equity. These are the people who know that they don’t have the choice of a strong neighborhood school. They know that we deserve better,” said Jitu Brown, the director of the Journey for Justice Alliance.
The groups reaffirm four primary ESEA demands established in a letter sent by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS)—a signatory on this week’s letter—to House and Senate leadership in March. Those demands include:
- $1 billion in funding to increase the number of sustainable community schools, which provide an array of wrap around services and after school programs and engaging, relevant, challenging curriculum while supporting quality teaching and transformative parent & community engagement;
- $500 million for restorative justice coordinators and training to promote positive approached to discipline;
- Full resourcing of Title I of the ESEA, including $20 billion in funding this year for schools that serve the most low income students, building to the 40% increase in funding for poor schools originally envisioned in the legislation;
- A moratorium on the federal Charter Schools Program.
Journey for Justice (J4J) is an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations demanding community-driven alternatives to the privatization of and dismantling of public schools systems and organizing in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and nationally, for an equitable and just education system.