Earlier this week the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of White New Haven firefighters, overturning a previous ruling by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. At the time I heard about it I mostly listened to the coverage and thought about the event in terms of the nomination process for Judge Sotomayor.
However, listening to a discussion earlier today on the Tavis Smiley Show amongst Tavis, UCLA Law Professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw and Supreme Court columnist for the New York Times, Adam Liptak, made me rethink the issues surrounding the test from another perspective – testing and K-16 students’ promotions – or lack thereof.
Crenshaw summarized during the conversation: New Haven “decided there were other ways to fairly assess who should be a firefighter. ” What implications might this kind of thinking have when it comes to discussing the role of to determine who gets promoted in school? Or who gets promoted to go to college? Or what kinds of schools (and teachers and students) have access to what kinds of programs and funding?
There is longstanding recognition of an “achievement gap” between Whites and Latinos, African Americans among others, as documented by standardized tests, tests which inevitably help set the course for students’ lives and workforce options long before they become adults. (See “A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education.”)
So, when I think about these issues and then read the following, (quoted from the June 29th New York Times article) in terms of education, I get a little anxious:
“In a concurrence, Justice Scalia predicted that the court would soon have to reach the larger constitutional question. “The war between disparate impact and equal protection will be waged sooner or later,” he wrote, “and it behooves us to begin thinking about how — and on what terms — to make peace between them.”
The rabbit-hole of NCLB is being re-dug these days by the Department of ED. And I’m wondering if Sec. Duncan and the Justice Roberts court might end up on the same curious playing field… the tilted one.