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When it comes to its stated objectives—reducing educational disparities by race and class—test-based school reform embodied in No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top has failed miserably.

Anti-Testing Activism

The Urban Education Catastrophe Left Untouched by Anti-Testing Activism—Mark Naison

Education activist movements organized in resistance to excessive testing have not persuaded parents in poor communities and communities of color that test resistance speaks to their needs

By every conceivable index of economic status and educational achievement, American society is MORE unequal than it was at the onset of No Child Left Behind in 2001. But the education activist movements organized in resistance to excessive testing have, in their own way, also failed because they have not persuaded parents in poor communities and communities of color that test resistance speaks to their needs, or provided a credible alternative to school closings and charters.

Anti-testing activism MAY—and the jury is still out on that—have preserved public education in middle class class and affluent communities, but has been unable to prevent low and moderate income communities from being perceived as low-hanging fruit for tech companies, charter profiteers, and ambitious politicians.

Public education is virtually dead in New Orleans, Detroit, and Camden and is on life support in Newark, Buffalo, and a score of middle-sized cities. Opt Out has granted schools in middle class communities—at least in some parts of the country—precious breathing room, but the nightmare of school closings, corporate takeovers, and scripted learning in the name of "school turnaround" strategies persists in virtually every city in the nation, coupled with the proliferation of unregulated charters.

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To be fair, leaders of every major anti-testing group have pointed out the corruption and hypocrisy involved in National Education initiatives spawned with egalitarian rhetoric, but with rare exceptions, they have not figured out how to create a resistance from within the communities where these policies have had their most destructive impact.

The present is awful; the future is even grimmer. Gentrification, profiteering, the destruction of the teaching profession, the depersonalization of education, and the demoralization of students is taking place in every urban area in the nation, unchecked by activism despite episodes of inspiring heroism by teachers and students and parents.


It will take a revolution linking education organizers to those fighting gentrification, wage compression, police abuses, and the drug war to stop the damage, and create a vision and reality of schools that empower young people, and equip them to fight for a better life.

mark naison

We now have leaders all over the country who "get" this, but it may be too little too late.

Mark Naison
With a Brooklyn Accent