standardized tests and Native student learners


Recently the National Assessment of Educational Progress released what is also known as the Nation’s Report card. In this national report card American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth are assessed based on results from state education department standardized tests.

Now when it comes to standardized test scores related to NCLB, the NAEP report was developed to measure how students were achieving throughout the country. Statistical information and demographics derived from this include race/ethnicity and in my opinion… is a fancy way of racially profiling from an institutional viewpoint. I mean this is where teachers, administrators, and people who don’t know Native people, let alone work on/around a Rez, or in a school district with a significant population of Native student learners get to see Native test scores. So this report, in their educated world of statistics is the E in end all of reports… (yes this people really do exist) and you should be concerned.

My blog thoughts out loud on this subject doesn’t even include the specifics like math/science/reading scores, just the reporting and gathering of data. I reeeeeeeally and I stress/emphasize REALLY want to know how the heck they got the list of schools selected but also who are these “Native” experts. Further…. a few select schools do NOT speak for Indian country at large. One gripe of the  many I’m opinionated about is the process of selecting and reporting. During this evaluative process, statisticians resource demographics and report which students are not meeting state education standards. Who helps keep them in check?

Although each state has it’s own standardized testing system that is ran through the state department of education, I think it’s important to talk about who these people are. Seriously, let’s think about that one for a minute. Who is checkin on those “Native” experts when we have such a small percentage of Native people? Just asking, Indian country is pretty small. Add to that a circle of people who work in whatever arena they work in (mine being education) I can honestly say, I think I’m aware/acquainted/familiar/know who the majority of the education folks are. It’s a natural process in any field one decides to work in, we as Ndn people, literally, know somebody who know’s somebody. So add the 50 states for standardized testing. I don’t know everything but I’m pretty sure there are not reservations in EVERY state. So when I read the NAEP test scores about over all averages and find Native students have yet again scored low… I wanna say, “Really Einstein?”

I find myself reading through materials and just want to ask, for once, how is it that state education systems have not figured out what we as Indigenous people have been saying for about 500 years. We know your education system does not work. We have had an education system that dates time immemorial, so your 200 year BiCentennial anniversary is really… how do I say… “no so much”

I’m at a place where I have found materials about standardized test score results and think about what some students must go through during this test that creates anxiety and builds up this hyped up expectation that really is a system of oppression. Not to mention the teachers and administrators who don’t challenge it. This does not go without saying, I give mad props to those teachers and administrators who above and beyond and still insert their gems of knowledge to students. We need more of them and less of the nimrods who still believe Native student learners are not capable of testing above and beyond an unrealistic measure.

At this time, I wanna share I’m a parent and have talked with my kids about this expectation. The stress they put on kids is probably another stink that I have. You know, those letters that are sent home informing parents their children will need to be well rested, fed healthy foods, and mentally prepared for this major test. I don’t know what they told my kid in the school, but I know my son had a bit of test anxiety and concerned if he did not get to bed early to be well rested and or have a good meal that he could fail?? Yeah go figure, I told him he was a success and smarter than anybody I knew and would do great. Still… the test anxiety doesn’t sit well with me.

As I recalled my experience, I remember one week of quiet time in the classroom, where there was no talking, no walk mans, no notes in class… remember Jake Ryan?

And as I think about Native youth today, I know getting rest, eating healthy foods, and preparation is not an ideal for many, especially for those who come from families that are not home when the kids need them to be. Single parent incomes, parenting, housing, food, essentially basic needs must be met and when a parent is not home, those little things turn out to be big deals to a kid who has a concern.

I wanna know, how many more NAEP standardized tests are there going to be before the Department of Education starts looking at the reality of WHY there is a Native American Achievement Gap? How bout they do a study on how the fed’s continually fail the Native populations and look to see what’s reeeeeeally goin on there? With the recent VAWA advocacy on Capitol Hill, and hearing testimony from women such as Deborah Parker from the Tulalip Tribe of Washington, I doubt Congress considers looking at how assaults on American Indian women can also directly influence Native student achievement in the classroom.

When I hear non Natives state they are appalled or “shocked” at the results, I want to answer, “Really?” Considering what we as a community have endured, I get the piece about inter generational trauma, and when it comes to Native education, we also need to examine the failed settler system was not created to serve Indigenous people or anyone who is not white. So why can’t they?

I mean, when children who see their mothers, aunties, sisters, grandmothers, or a member of their Rez community live in an oppressed society and have no other reference outside their classroom, imagine the trauma some kids experience. All one needs to do is read Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Oppressed, to read about the imagined classroom without oppression. How bout we imagine the trauma? How bout that trauma in an already existing racist environment? Will standardized tests look at that? Probably not. My blog thoughts out loud doesn’t go so much into what a child goes through in the classroom or the NAEP test scores, and really is looking at how achievement IS related to other factors besides a standardized test.

If an education system that perpetuates oppression, poverty, and racism to name the obvious but does nothing to change the system from the inside continues to exist…. how else are different results going to be expected?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s