Jamaal Bowman, principal of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (C.A.S.A.) Middle School in the Bronx, has been getting a lot of press lately. The NY Post picked up on a blogpost he wrote called “The Tyranny of Standardized Testing,” where he compares annual student assessments with slavery:
America was born of horror for black people and that horror continues today for brown and poor people as well. Slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, crack cocaine, and now standardized testing were all sanctioned by the American government. All designed to destroy the mind body and souls of black and brown people; All within our so-called democracy.
The Post Editorial Board responded today by pointing out that C.A.S.A., under Bowman’s leadership, has upped its reliance on what its website calls “a Data Driven Instruction model in which students take practice state assessments every 6-8 weeks, where teachers and administrators deeply analyze the data and make instructional plans for the next 6-8 week period.”
I suppose Bowman could argue that his school’s emphasis on data is a matter of American government-sanctioned test mania that runs counter to his personal philosophy. Whatever. What's more disturbing to me, even more than his blog's multiple distortions of fact and history, is his attacks on charter schools.
Bowman is an educator. He is, in fact, a leader of educators who also professes to speak for black families:
The reality is, we were never “created” equal in America. When these words were written the black man was a slave, not a man. When the constitution was completed we were only “promoted” to 3/5 of a man. The descendants of these enslaved people, 236 years after the Declaration of Independence, continue to perform 30-40 percentage points behind their master. Either our educational leaders are incredibly ignorant to these connections, or this is all by deliberate design.
But as an educator and self-appointed spokesman for black people, Bowman completely disregards the preference of parents of color for charter schools: according to a recent survey, 72% of African-American parents and 69% of Hispanic parents believe that “public charter schools offer parents in low-income communities options for quality schools that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.”
But Bowman disregards their voices. He writes,
[Charter schools] are privately funded, anti union, test prep factories with draconian behavioral policies. They have mostly white staff with mostly black and brown students who are not allowed to speak during breakfast, lunch, or hallway transitions. A student from a New Orleans charter school stated, “I hate going to school. It feels like prison.” Charters argue that their “learning” environment contributes to their good test results. Well of course it does. That’s the point. Oppressive assessments, lead to oppressive schools, and oppressed students.
Get it? Charter schools = slavery.
This would be news to the 49,700 New York City students, mainly children of color, who sit on charter school waiting lists. And their parents would be unlikely to agree with Bowman's appalling declaration that "those living in poverty literally have less brain matter and thus smaller brains than those from middle class communities."
Bowman can speak for himself. He can even speak for C.A.S.A. Middle School, where fewer than one in four students meet state proficiency levels in reading and math. But he has no right to speak for families who aspire for more than his delimited vision of education.