The recent release of Oakland Unified School District’s test scores has raised many questions. At last week’s school board meeting the recently-resigned State Administrator Kimberley Statham characterized the scores as “flat,” referring the almost 50/50 split among schools—about half made their goals and about half did not. Now low-scoring schools must pick up the pace and better prepare students for this year’s spring battery of math and English standardized tests. Is this increased focus on the two subjects, in terms of standardized tests really good for students? Are they learning to think critically?

 

Sharon Dolan, Executive Director of Oakland Youth Chorus, doesn’t think so. “In the last two years I’ve noticed that the results of No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on testing […] has often led to the exclusion of everything else in schools, especially those with limited funding,” she said. “Art programs are usually the first to go.”

 

There’s also the achievement gap, which OUSD’s Chief Academic Officer Brad Stram labeled as “absolutely unacceptable,” in last week’s school board meeting. When the test results are broken down in terms of student ethnicity, there is a 55% difference between the average score of a white student and that of an African American one. And it’s only a few percentage points closer when white and Latino students are compared.  How can this be possible? How is it affecting the community and the mindset of children in these schools?

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