06 Jun Testing Provides Crucial Information
Statewide annual assessments offer insights into whether students are receiving an equitable and excellent education.
By Marc H. Morial
For more than century, the National Urban League has empowered parents and students in underserved and urban communities to achieve equality in education, jobs, and justice. As a legacy civil rights organization, we recognize the power and necessity of data in the attainment of equity and excellence at scale. Throughout our history, the civil rights movement has relied upon data to identify and address disparities that affect African-Americans and other underserved communities. From striking down school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education to shining a light on the school-to-prison pipeline — data have been used to advocate for civil rights in education.
Assessments are part of life, and, while they are not comfortable,
they are necessary.
Internally, data drive the development of the National Urban League’s targeted programming in communities and the ways in which we advocate with and for the communities we serve. Our movement comprises 95 affiliates
across 35 states and the District of Columbia that represent 300 communities, including parents, teachers, and students. In addition to providing a robust array of supports and services, Urban League affiliates serve as a conduit for the voices of African-American families and underserved communities through advocacy. This advocacy is critical because we continue to see our communities left out of decision making in education policy and co-opted by
well-meaning, but misinformed individuals. Each year, the National Urban League publishes the State of Black America®, a research publication that provides insights into the nation’s inequities, the progress achieved in closing disparities, and our recommendations to reach equity and economic empowerment. This year, we included a State Education Equality Index (National Urban League, 2015), a ranking of America’s student achievement based on data from National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). These data revealed that the largest achievement
gaps were in states with large populations of color and in segregated neighborhoods with excessive rates of concentrated high poverty. Higher graduation rates for African-American and Latino students were found in states where these groups are a smaller portion of the population. While the nation has a clear and agreed-upon way to measure high school graduation rates, NAEP is a snapshot of student achievement created using a sample of students in grades 4, 8, and 12. While NAEP helps highlight national trends, (Continued on page 36)
MARC H. MORIAL is president and CEO of the National Urban League, the nation’s largest civil rights organization.
Continue reading two essays presenting different views on the role of statewide annual assessments play in education Phi Delta Kappan-2015-Morial-34-6