Racial remix

It's too bad that Lucky Liam is spending a few days being a bon vivant in Montreal because it would have been fun to see his reaction to this story out of California. The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday on a school that would have failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind were it not for the fancy footwork of its principal:

One hundred students were categorized as black when they took the test last spring. But if the school had fewer than 100 students in that group, their low scores wouldn't count. So Principal Jim Wong reviewed the files of all the students classified as African American on the test, he said, and found that four of them had indicated no race or mixed race on their enrollment paperwork. Wong sent his staff to talk to the four families to ask permission to put the kids in a different racial group.

"You get a kid that's half black, half white. What are you going to put him down as?" Wong said. "If one kid makes the difference and I can go white, that gets me out of trouble."

"Go white"? No doubt Liam would say something witty like, "When you divvy up the American people by race, eventually you divvy up individual Americans by race." And he would have explained, as he did in a National Review Online piece, that he is one of the only education analysts in the country who deeply dislikes NCLB's policy of disaggregating test score data by race. That would have sparked a debate about the merits of said policy that would have gone something like this:

Me: Touch??, Liam, but let us not overreact to the actions of a single misguided principal. Just like we don't abandon testing because a handful of teachers cheat on the test, neither should we abandon holding schools accountable for the performance of all of their groups of students just because Mr. Wong divvied kids up by race. The real travesty is that the U.S. Department of Education allows California (and Florida) to deem schools as A-OK even if 99 African-American or Hispanic or low-income students in a school fail the state test.

Liam: But Mr. Wong was not alone. The Sac Bee found 80 schools in California that "got out of trouble" with NCLB by changing students' racial identities. Surely this is happening in the other 49 states too. And it's hardening America's obsession with race. If a school is going to contact parents about their child, shouldn't it be about something other than the color of their skin? WWMLKD?

Me: Martin Luther King would have staged a protest outside Mr. Wong's school. He wouldn't have backed away from the most important civil rights law to come along in a generation.

This would have continued all day, no doubt. As I said, it's too bad Liam's in Montreal.

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