African-American Students Report to the Gym

by Robert Pondiscio
April 30th, 2009

So now it’s come to this.

Students at a Sacramento-area high school attended standardized test pep rallies — er, sorry…Heritage Assemblies – organized by race to pump up each ethnic group to take state tests.  “Students could go to any rally they wanted,” the Sacramento Bee reports, ”but the gatherings were designated for specific races – African Americans in the gym, Pacific Islanders in the theater, Latinos in the multipurpose room.”

The paper describes a scene in the gym at Laguna Creek High School, where students gathered before a large outline of Africa on the wall. “Last year we scored the highest percentage increase of any group,” Vice Principal Hasan Abdulmalik hollered at the crowd.

Lovely.

Laguna Creek High School Principal Doug Craig said dividing the students by race allowed staff to talk about test scores without making any one ethnic group feel singled out in a negative manner. “Is it racist? I don’t believe it is,” Craig tells the paper, which reports the practice of holding race-specific test prep rallies has become more common in California.  

Gathering and reporting data based on ethnic groups is one of the few unambiguous wins of the NCLB era.  It’s pushed the achievement gap to the front of our education agenda.  But I’m not sure holding “heritage rallies” even rises to the level of well-intentioned but wrong-headed.  At best, it’s yet another example of how schools are putting their problems–and their desperation– on the backs of kids. And a particularly disturbing example at that.

Update:  I was remiss in not tipping my hat to Anthony Rebora, who brought this item to my attention via his forum at Teacher Magazine.