Are standardized testing and absence of oversight civil rights?

Good morning, Joanne Jacobs blog readers! I believe I got connected to both Diana’s and Michael’s work via this blog, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to guest post here along side of them.

I am planning to write about PE, preschool, the intersection of democracy and school choice,  among other topics, but since the below-cited article was the first thing I read today (h/t Benjamin Schulze), it’s on my mind.

In the Politico education pages, Stephanie Simon reports on the scuffle currently taking place between former edu-allies, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent John White.  Jindal has changed his position on the Common Core standards and associated tests, renouncing the standards and demanding a competitive process for selecting Louisiana’s standardized assessments.

Now, this isn’t a post about the merits of the Common Core Standards or their associated assessments, though that is fodder for many long and complex conversations (to see what I have said about the Common Core, go here), nor is it about the politics behind Jindal’s about-face. Rather, it is about John White’s hysteria and perversion of the term “civil rights.”

First, there’s this:

On Wednesday, he ramped up his rhetoric considerably, telling POLITICO in an interview that Jindal is breaking the law, trampling the state constitution — and crushing the dreams of low-income minority students.

The governor “breached a constitutional line and broke the law in suspending assessments in Louisiana for reasons that defy the civil rights of our state’s citizens,” White said.

Then, there was this:

The two worked together to fight an attempt by the Obama administration to shut down the voucher program. When the administration shifted tactics and instead demanded oversight of the program, Jindal and White responded in unison, lambasting President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for violating the civil rights of the mostly black, low-income students in the program.

Now, as the daughter of two civil rights lawyers, I am down with the cause, and certainly Article VIII of Louisiana’s state constitution does explicitly address education:


The goal of the public educational system is to provide learning environments and experiences, at all stages of human development, that are humane, just, and designed to promote excellence in order that every individual may be afforded an equal opportunity to develop to his full potential.

1.  Public Educational System

Section 1. The legislature shall provide for the education of the people of the state and shall establish and maintain a public educational system.

But the mandates of federal legislation such as No Child Left Behind aside, I don’t see how requiring children to take Common Core-aligned high-stakes standardized testing can be equated with their civil rights and it’s even more ridiculous to claim (and according to the article Jindal claimed this, as well) that oversight of publicly-funded programs amounts to a violation of children’s civil rights.

Mr. White needs to find himself some better arguments; that he disagrees with a policy does not make that policy a violation of civil rights.


UPDATE (6/27): I didn’t see until just now that Diana Senechal had already posted on the Jindal-White situation, though from a different angle. Please  read that post if you haven’t already, especially the conversation in the comments section.




  1. If you accept the premises of White’s “civil rights” arguments, then each argument on its own is fairly logical. The problem is that the two sets of premises contradict each other.

    Argument 1
    Premise: The former state standards and tests were shortchanging poor and minority students.
    Premise : Shortchanging poor and minority students amounts to violating their civil rights.
    Premise: The Common Core does not shortchange poor and minority students.
    Premise: To back out of the Common Core is to return to what we had before.
    Conclusion: Therefore, if we back out of the Common Core, we are violating the kids’ civil rights.

    The other one proceeds along these lines:

    Premise: Voucher programs help poor and minority students.
    Premise: To work effectively, voucher programs must be free from all federal control, inluding federal oversight.

    But wait…. doesn’t the Common Core involve federal control and oversight?

    • Diana,

      Thanks for the comment–I had the same thought. And, I didn’t even see until just now that you had already posted on this matter. I will try to pay better attention from now on 🙂

      • Rachel, I think it worked out well; you brought up important questions that I did not. and you had a different focus. Plus, there’s a lot to ask and say about this.