The Unintended (and Mostly Ignored) Lesson of Common Core: Race Inequity

You would be well advised to read Andre Perry’s examination of Common Core and race, carefully and possibly more than once: How Common Core serves white folks a sliver of the black experience.

I would also like to draw your attention to two key points that may get lost in the provocative and powerful crux of Perry’s piece:

I simply can’t manufacture the passion for or against curricula reboots or changes that eventually must happen. I’m sure there’s someone still lobbying for Home Economics as a required course, but gladly most have progressed. The researcher in me can’t argue against wanting a better means to measure educational performance nationwide. However, having the ability to compare performances among groups hasn’t brought educational justice to black and brown students [emphasis added]. Still, I know that kids overcome….

As Sen. Lamar Alexander-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. rewrite No Child Left Behind, they must consider giving teachers the freedom to teach while providing consequences to those districts and schools that don’t provide the education all students deserve [emphasis added].

Finally, I want to make two responses to Perry’s piece—with the caveat that I am not suggesting my perspective is better but that I have held nuanced differences with some of the important issues Perry is raising.

First, unlike Perry, I do not support Common Core because I do not support any standards changes as well as the inevitable high-stakes testing standards-based reform produce because—as Perry himself notes above—standards and high-stakes testing have not (and will/can not) create the equity in education all children deserve.

And finally, I am an advocate for the inverse of what Perry has scathingly recognized about the backlash against Common Core: “Common Core is serving white folks a sliver of the black experience.”

Education reform needs to make two dramatic shifts: (1) Commit to social reform first, and then (2) address equity of opportunity for all students (again, as Perry notes above).

My grand plan would be not that we subject privileged children (mostly white) to the horribly inadequate and criminally reduced educational experiences that have failed black and brown children for decades, but that we grant black and brown children the dignity they deserve by guaranteeing them the rich and rewarding educational experiences that privileged children have received on top of their privileged lives for decades as well.

As Perry highlights:

Black, brown and poor people take tests every single day. Confrontations with police, hunger, unemployment and biased teachers overshadow the feelings of taking computerized tests. Low expectations, a lack of inclusion, a leaky teacher pipeline for communities of color, and punishing disciplinary policies [hyperlink added] all threaten authentic learning and teaching more than PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests ever will.

For good reason, people in the ’hood have always been more worried with how test results are used.

It is no flippant call to say that all black and brown children deserve the schooling Barack Obama’s daughter have—and not the abusive and insulting “no excuses” charter schools many now must endure.

Ultimately, any aspect of the Common Core debate is an inexcusable distraction—”it’s easier to shout down Common Core than battle for a viable solution to our accountability problem,” Perry acknowledges—and it is thus vital that we open our eyes as Perry demands we do.


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