A recent Chalkbeat Indiana article brought attention to Indiana lawmakers who are taking steps to get rid of the CASA exam. The exam is a basic reading, writing, and math exam that evaluates the skills of freshman and sophomore education students. Why would we lower the bar for teachers of color while raising the bar for students of color?
We require students in school to pass state assessments to show proficiency in state-created standards. We expect all third graders in the state of Indiana to pass the IREAD test to show they are ready to move onto fourth grade. We expect teachers to teach the standards-based curriculum and prepare students for these tests. Unfortunately, in the same breath, we expect teachers to do this without taking and passing a “basic” skills test. Chris Stewart, Education Post CEO, summed it up best, “Our children, ALL our children, are capable of so much more than we ask of them. So are our adults.”
This Chalkbeat article cites professors who talked about the historical bias of the exam. It highlights how students of color historically have test anxiety, and that is why they do not pass. I get all of that, but what are we teaching our children? We expect you to overcome these barriers and pass tests, but your teacher does not.
So, we lower the bar. I know we need more teachers of color. I, more than anyone, want to push for more teachers of color, but not like this. We do not get teachers by saying, “Ok, since you can’t pass the test then we will get rid of it.” I am sure that is not the only reason why they are pushing to get rid of the CASA exam. Yes, basic skills can be measured using other factors, but I believe a person who plans on teaching those same basic skills should be able to pass an exam on those basic skills.
This highlights for me a bigger issue we have in our education system and even in our society. This is what happens in schools across the country when black and brown children do not do well; we want to lower the bar for them. We make excuses and cite statistics to support the claim that we are less than others. A question on a test is a word problem about flying, and you say students of color cannot answer it because they have never been on an airplane. First, I am not sure exactly what that has to do with them answering the question, but more importantly, instead of scrapping the question how about we expose them more to flying and airplanes.
We will not and cannot close the achievement gap by lowering the bar. We cannot lower the bar for the sake of attracting more teachers of color. It is crucial for students in school to have diverse teachers, but those teachers must be competent. Are these the teachers of color we want to put in front of our children, the ones who could not pass the basic skills test? Instead of lowering bar, how about we motivate teachers of color to reach higher and deeper to meet the expectations.