Facebook Twitter

Testing-Gate: The Case for Reparations

Consequences are an essential component of accountability. Recent revelations of inflated state test scores require consequences, not just for those public officials responsible for false claims of math and reading proficiency but to make whole the students who for years were denied legally required help.

This case for reparations depends not only on elemental fairness and the oft-cited need for improved student outcomes but on mandated Supplemental Educational Services under Section 1116(e) of the No Child Left Behind Act and Academic Intervention Services required by New York State Education Commissioner’s Regulation §§ 100.1(g) and 100.2(ee). If children’s test scores had been properly determined, hundreds of thousands more students would have received extra help. It is insufficient to now say, in effect, “too bad.”

Students were denied their legal right to instructional services because of State policies that were known or should have been known to be deficient. Unfortunately, at least under No Child Left Behind, individuals do not generally have a right to sue the federal government, states, or school districts for noncompliance. But the federal government itself can sue the state, and the state’s attorney general can sue the State Education Department and districts to repair the harm. The state can also address the problem legislatively.

The recent movie “Waiting for ‘Superman'” argues that state governments and school districts constitute a “Blob” that cares more about adults’ concerns than children’s. In October, the State Board of Regents compounded its strategy of denial by voting to suspend its own requirement that districts provide remediation to students lacking academic proficiency. Once again, the State Education Blob undercut its own rhetoric about high standards leading to improved student performance by acting in a manner that subverts progress of our most vulnerable youth. When push comes to shove, the new education elite abandons its civil rights sound bites to reduce its tax bite.

There can be no clearer example of the Blob at work than denying instruction to needy students. The government is directly withholding instructional assistance needed to compensate students for past wrongs. Our children, our future, and our law demand that our leaders make good on their unfulfilled responsibilities to supplement the instruction of those students unfairly denied this entitlement.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.