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Oregon Education Official: Standardized Testing Is White Supremacy ‘Weaponized’ Against Students of Color

Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: February 16, 2022
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A photo taken in 2005 shows the second floor of the western wing of Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon. (Image: Sharat Ganapati/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

A work group of the Oregon Department of Education’s state board has called upon educators to accepted the “truth” that standardized testing “was framed and came from White supremacist or eugenicist sources.”

Held on Monday, Feb. 14, the ODE board virtual meeting was titled “Work Group on Equitable and Racially Responsive Balanced Assessment.” It was led by ODE Director of Assessment Dan Farley. 

“We started the conversation by introducing the concept that – not the concept but the evidence that the history of standardized testing was framed and came from White supremacist or eugenicist sources,” Farley said.

He added that “state assessment results have been weaponized” against people of color, and that while standardized testing cannot be done away with altogether, they should be reframed as “active anti-racist levers.”

“We need standardization in order for test results to be comparable, but I do think it’s a question that’s worthy of interrogation,” he said.

“It’s not a question that I, as a White male, should come out and answer, whether I have an opinion on it or not.”

In another meeting last September, Farley said that “racist policies” should be identified as either containing “racist content” or leading to “racist outcomes.” He noted that “the state board and the assessment team are critical in that discussion, given the influence maintained over policies and practices in Oregon schools.”

“Oregon’s “standards, curriculum, instruction and assessment have centered in Whiteness contributing to the racist education outcomes that we are familiar with,” he said in the September 7, 2021 gathering. 

The meetings come after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill in July 2021 dropping requirements that high school students demonstrate a minimum level of skill in reading, writing, or math in order to graduate. 

According to a report by the Oregonian, Brown’s decision to sign the bill on July 14 was kept hidden for weeks, “because her office did not hold a signing ceremony or issue press release.” A computer glitch caused the bill to be added to the state’s database only on July 29. 

Charles Boyle, deputy communications director for the governor, told the Oregonian at the time that the new standards would help benefit the state’s “Black, Latino, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”

An opinion piece run by the Oregonian’s editorial board that Jun. 23 — almost a month before Brown signed the bill — argued that the bill should be vetoed, given that the dropping of graduation standards is a “poorly-vetted move instead plays to the anti-testing sentiment that has already helped weaken educational accountability mechanisms.”

“Gov. Kate Brown should reinforce the Board of Education’s authority, ensure that students’ diplomas continue to carry the stamp of approval of earlier years’ and veto this bill.”