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

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.

Jackie Robinson (left) and Wendell Smith (third from left) shake hands during the historic time Robinson was desegregating Major League Baseball. The movie "42" depicts well the struggles of Robinson during his early years in the major leagues, but an additional movie still needs to be made about the legacy of reporters like Wendell Smith -- and the disgrace of cities like Chicago that have embarked, under some black leaders, to close as many black public schools as possible, and then to white out even the names of those schools (many of which were named after famous black Americans). 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 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bme4TMZOCsU).

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!).

Article from the Pittsburg Courier by CONNIE PARKER

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.)



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