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NAACP letter to the State Board of Education, House and Senate Education Committees, and the Citizens of Pennsylvania

Posted: 2014-02-02

Reminder: Take another look at the Sept. 3, 2013 Pennsylvania NAACP letter to the State Board of Education, House and Senate Education Committees, and the Citizens of Pennsylvania. Ask yourself why this letter received notice in only two papers: New Pittsburgh Courier and Substance.


NAACP: New Exams Block Graduation



by New Pittsburgh Courier Editorial Staff




Calling it a "present day form of Eugenics" 45 NAACP branches from Erie to Easton and from McKeesport to Mercer, have signed on to a letter calling on the Pennsylvania State Board of Education to end the newly enacted requirement for high school seniors to pass the Keystone Examinations in order to graduate.



"Attaching the Keystone Examinations to graduation is clearly based on the idea that it is possible to distinguish between superior and inferior elements of society through selective scores on a paper and pencil test," the letter states. "Pushing masses of students out of high school without a diploma will create a subculture of poverty comprised of potentially 60 percent of our young citizens."



In addition to the state education board, the NAACP sent the letter to the education committees in both the sate House and state Senate.



To comply with the Obama administration’s Common Core education standards, the Keystone Exams were developed to replace the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exam long used to weigh and compare students, school and district performance across the state. It was first administered during the 2012-2013 school year. Though students in grades 3-8 will still take the PSSA.



In its current form, Keystone Exams test proficiency in Algebra 1, biology and literature, but is slated to add sections on composition in 2019 and civics and government in 2020. Sections on chemistry and American history are also slated for inclusion. The Keystones are more rigorous than both the PSSAs, and Common Core standards.



The graduation requirement, which would first apply to students 2017--current ninth graders, is also a requirement of Common Core, which states had to adopt as a condition of federal funding.



Students, however, can take any of the exams multiple times in order to pass, and schools must provide remedial work, structured study halls and teacher mentoring. For students who fail after that, the state has developed a project-based assessment that can be taken online with teacher guidance.



As a final option, students, schools and districts can apply for exemptions, which would be determined on a case-by-case basis.



Regardless of the remedies, NAACP Pittsburgh Unit President Connie Parker said the policy is unacceptable.



"Our legislative bodies aren't functioning for the people, and the schools aren't educating our kids," said Parker. "They're just teaching them to pass tests, and not doing that very well. This policy does nothing to help young people of color, and it doesn't help poor people of any color. It needs to go."



Calls for comment from the Pennsylvania Department of Education were not returned by Courier press deadline.



(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)







Pensylvania NAACP



September 3, 2013



TO: The Pennsylvania State Board of Education

Cc: The House Education Committee of the Pennsylvania Assembly

The Senate Education Committee of the Pennsylvania Assembly

The Citizens of Pennsylvania



The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognizes that for most people, education is the gateway to the economic mainstream; and that as such, education is a civil right.



For this reason, the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches strongly opposes regulatory action that links the Keystone Examination to high school graduation. We call for the removal from Chapter 4 of Keystone Examinations as a high school graduation requirement. We are certain that such a regulation will create a shameful condition that defames the dream of a free society.



We base our position on the following recognitions.



1. It is clear that the regulation linking Keystone Examination scores to high school graduation is a present day form of Eugenics. Hidden under the cloak of “the business community has asked for an improved workforce”, and “colleges are concerned about the number of students needing remediation”, attaching Keystone Examinations to graduation is clearly based on the idea that it is possible to distinguish between superior and inferior elements of society through selective scores on a paper and pencil test. This is a clandestine social movement that strips children of their dignity and self worth while it fails to address or to access any of the characteristics that lead to successful employment, as delineated on the Pennsylvania Labor and Industry web site



2. It is clear that the regulation linking Keystone Examination scores to high school graduation is a human rights violation. It is an unspeakable horror for students who have completed the work assigned by their local school district to a satisfactory level to be told that they fail to graduate based on Keystone Examination scores. Such an action will create an atrocity that will rain down a holocaust on our youth and our society as a whole. To deprive young people of their diploma based on single criteria also deprives them of the freedom to prosper in life. Ultimately, withholding the diploma based on single criteria will deprive them over their lives of decent income, decent food, decent homes, and hopeful prospects as well as the security of justice.



3. The potential to destroy the social order is clear. Pushing masses of students out of high school without a diploma will create a subculture of poverty comprised potentially of up to 60% of our young citizens. It will result in a sea of frustrated parents whose aspirations for their children have been dashed by the actions of the state; and leave them to deal with the life-long trauma imposed on their families.



4. The disparate impact on women of linking Keystone examinations to graduation is clear. As a result of a regulation that creates a distinction of high school failure, women will be further excluded and restricted in their economic and social access in an economy where existing pay discrimination has been demonstrated.



5. The cruel and unusual nature of failing to graduate from high school is a life-long punishment that condemns a person to having the doors to life slammed shut and to being consigned to a life of low income, limited housing choice, limited career choice, limited further education choice, and a limited vision for their progeny.



6. The disparate impact of the use of an arbitrary Keystone Examination score as a graduation requirement on students in underfunded schools is clear. Law makers have created a system of entrapment for the youth of Pennsylvania. They have brought students unawares into the danger and difficulty of a life of adversity. They have failed to provide the resources necessary to succeed on the exam while an obstacle – success on Keystone Examinations – must be overcome in order to move into a stable future.



7. The depraved indifference of regulating Keystone Examination scores as the requirement for high school graduation is clear and easily substantiated. Much has been presented to the public in the way of data and fact as to the harm of the use of such a tool. Evidence has been presented that questions the construction and content of the test. It is clear that the test does access the qualities needed to predict a good employee. The field of education has long since dismissed a test as a valid predictor of a student’s success in higher education. Given this information, clearly to impose such a regulation is deficient in a moral sense of concern, lacks regard for the lives of the children who will be harmed, and puts their lives and futures at risk.



The Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches cannot overstate the profoundly awful impact of regulating Keystone Examination scores as a requirement for high school graduation. It is a human rights violation to block and deter forever human beings from the opportunity to develop their potential and to pursue their dreams. It is abuse of power for the state to set such policy. This is an action so brutal that it is tantamount to lynching our own young.



Joan Duvall-Flynn, Ed.D.

Chair, Education Committee



J. Whyatt Mondesire,

President, PA State Conference of NAACP Branches



ALLEGHENY EAST BRANCH

Lorraine Lewis Burke, President



ALLEGHENY-KISKI BRANCH

Dr. Liney Glenn, President



ALLENTOWN BRANCH NAACP

Daniel C Bosket, President



AMBLER BRANCH NAACP

Evelyn H. Warner, President



BEAVER COUNTY BRANCH

Willie Sallis, President

BETHLEHEM BRANCH NAACP

Esther M. Lee, President



BLAIR COUNTY BRANCH NAACP

Donald E. Witherspoon, President



BUCKS COUNTY NAACP

Victoria Harris, President



CARLISLE (Greater) BRANCH

Dwayne Jackson, Sr., President



CHELTENHAM AREA BRANCH Harvey L. Crudup, President



CHESTER BRANCH NAACP

Darrell Jones, President



CLAIRTON BRANCH NAACP

Greg E. Stewart, President



COATESVILLE BRANCH NAACP

Tonya Thames Taylor, President



DARBY AREA BRANCH NAACP

Sheila A. Carter, President



EAST BOROUGHS BRANCH

Deborah Brown, President



EASTON BRANCH NAACP

John Robinson, President



ERIE BRANCH NAACP

Dorothy Smith- Frazier, President



FAYETTE COUNTY BRANCH

Clinton Anderson, President



GREATER GETTYSBURG UNIT

Sara Gondwe, President



GRATERFORD CORRECTIONAL FACILTY NAACP

Mr. Donald Jones, CM1887, President



GREENSBURG-JEANNETTE BRANCH NAACP

Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., President



HARRISBURG (Greater) BRANCH

Stanley R. Lawson, Sr., President



INDIANA BRANCH NAACP

Dr. Carolyn Princes, President



JOHNSTOWN BRANCH NAACP

Dr. Clea P.Hollis, President



LANCASTER BRANCH NAACP

Blanding Watson, President



LYCOMING TRI-COUNTY BRANCH NAACP

Gerald Smith, President



MAINLINE BRANCH NAACP

Diana Robertson, President



MCKEESPORT BRANCH NAACP

Ocie Paige, President



MEADVILLE BRANCH NAACP

Sam J. Byrd, Jr., President



MEDIA BRANCH NAACP

Dr. Joan Duval-Flynn, President



MERCER COUNTY NAACP

Monica Williams-Gregory, President



MONONGAHELA VALLEY BRANCH NAACP

George Burroughs, Jr., President



MONROE COUNTY BRANCH

Beatrice Cyrus, Secretary



NEW CASTLE BRANCH NAACP

Sidney McKnight, President



NORRISTOWN BRANCH NAACP

M. Lana Shells, President



PENN HILLS BRANCH NAACP

Joyce Davis, President



PHILADELPHIA BRANCH NAACP

J. Whyatt Mondesire, President

PITTSBURGH BRANCH NAACP

Connie Parker, President



POTTSTOWN BRANCH NAACP

Newstell Marable, President



READING BRANCH NAACP

Robert Jefferson, President



WASHINGTON COUNTY BRANCH

Dean Ellis, President



WEST CHESTER BRANCH NAACP

Alice H. Hammond, President

WILLOW GROVE BRANCH NAACP



WILKES-BARRE BRANCH NAACP

Ronald L. Felton, President



YEADON BRANCH NAACP

Linda Osinupedi, President



YORK BRANCH NAACP

Sandra Thompson, President



NATIONAL BOARD

Jessica D. Butler

J. Whyatt Mondesire





'Modern Eugenics' denounced... 45 Pennsylvania NAACP branches come out against Pennsylvania high school exit exam, exclusively in the Pittsburgh Courier



by George Schmidt, Substance




Oct. 31, 2013



More than 60 years after another landmark series of stories, the coverage of the integration of Major League Baseball by Jackie Robinson ("42") the legendary Pittsburgh Courier newspaper carried the report this week that compared the exit exams required of Pennsylvania high school students to the eugenics movement that gave birth to the "Race To The Top" philosophy and high-stakes testing. A survey of other media, both in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, showed once against that the Courier is doing a job that is being whited out in most media in the USA Today.



The lead paragraph of the story is stunning:



"Calling it a 'present day form of Eugenics," the Pittsburgh Courier reports, "45 NAACP branches from Erie to Easton and from McKeesport to Mercer, have signed on to a letter calling on the Pennsylvania State Board of Education to end the newly enacted requirement for high school seniors to pass the Keystone Examinations in order to graduate."



The vote against the testing program from the NAACP branches across Pennsylvania was basically unanimous across the state.



Anyone who has watched the movie "42" knows the importance of the Pittsburgh Courier in the history of the United States.



Like the (now effectively defunct) Chicago Defender, the Courier was one of the main reasons why the push for the desegregation of Mayor League Baseball was eventually successful. Courier reporter Wendell Smith worked with Jackie Robinson ("42") through the rocky path to the Baseball Hall of Fame, as accurately depicted in the film. It is fitting on the day the World Series of 2013 has ended that we also cover another project being taken by the Courier. (A really good succinct video about Wendell Smith is available here.



The Pennsylvania NAACP has come out against the current high-stakes regime in Pennsylvania's public schools. Where else was this story reported? Like the early stories about Jim Crow in baseball and the ongoing saga of Jackie Robinson's work at a Brooklyn Dodger, the Courier once again has a scoop. And in the year when the Chicago Board of Education and Mayor Rahm Emanuel placed themselves at the head of the leaders of the New Jim Crow by closing 49 of the city's real public schools, most of them in African American communities, this story is worth sharing on Chicago. (Substance thanks Fair Test for bringing this story to a broader audience, and this reporter is reminded that some of his first days as an activist came as a member of the NAACP in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania east of Pittsburgh, when we picketed Jim Crow lunch counters in department stores in place like Jeanette Pennsylvania -- in 1965!).



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