|Black Panther Party's free Breakfast Program, circa 1969.|
Here's a shocker for you. Latest research coming out of Cardiff University confirms that kids who come to school hungry score lower on standardized tests than kids who are fed well. The latter group of the study's 11-year-olds scored twice as high as the hungry students.
More evidence that basing teacher evaluations on student test scores is bogus. What the tests are mostly measuring is student/family poverty -- not so-called "student achievement". Of course, by now nearly everyone in the field realizes this. Thus the growing movement of resistance to testing madness that have forced some small retreats in federal and state testing policies. Or maybe just lip service to change?
At any rate, Pres. Obama's call for "fewer and better tests" is welcomed by parents and educators. But it misses the point. That point being -- how high-stakes standardized testing is used to track and sort kids and to evaluate teachers.
Latest mini-retreat comes from one of the nation's greatest offenders -- N.Y. Gov. Cuomo himself.
According to NCPR:
New York State’s latest teacher evaluation system, which was supposed to be in place by November 15, has been put on hold because 90 percent of school districts were granted waivers to delay its implementation. This represents the reversal of a policy championed by Governor Cuomo last spring.Side Note -- In Wales, where the study took place, there is a free breakfast initiative in place for primary schools.
After watching Stanley Nelson's latest film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, I'm reminded that the Panthers most popular community initiative was it's free Breakfast For Children program. And that was back in '69.
Arne Duncan and the D.O.E. would do well to take a chunk of the millions it spends on testing and use it to recreate the Panthers' program. It would almost immediately lead to higher measurable student learning outcomes than have all the Department's current test-and-punish strategies.
As a parent and educator, I am repulsed by the idea that our society needs the testing rationale to make the case for feeding hungry children. But, whatever works, I suppose.
Without a focus on ending child hunger and poverty, current testing initiatives will continue to reproduce the system's inequities.