Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home


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

Publication Date: 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 â€" success on Keystone Examinations â€" 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!).


FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.