Heads of Black Districts Support Literacy Exit Exams

December 05, 1984 1 min read

Nearly all of the nation’s superintendents who head districts with high concentrations of black students agree that students should take and pass a literacy test as a condition for graduation, according to a survey by a University of Michigan researcher.

The researcher, Charles D. Moody, who is’ professor of education and director of the university’s Program for Educational Opportunity, polled all of the nation’s 120 black superintendents as well as 82 nonblack superintendents who administer districts with a relatively high proportion of black students.

Support Basic Literacy Test

His finding that 96 percent of these superintendents support a basic literacy test as a condition for graduation contrasts with the position taken by advocates for black students in Florida, who charged in Debra P. v. Turlington that such an exit test was discriminatory on a number of grounds.

The U.S Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit this year upheld the validity of the tests. (See Education Week, May 9, 1984.) The court held, in part, that the plaintiffs’ claim that the students fared poorly on the tests because of the “vestiges of segregation” was not valid.

The Michigan researcher’s telephone survey also revealed that 58 percent of the school districts that enroll most of the nation’s black students have raised their high-school graduation requirements in response to calls for academic excel-lence, according to Mr. Moody.

“Looking at the concentration of black students in such a small number of school districts, one might say that if we could provide excellence and effective schooling in these school districts, we could have excellence and effective schooling for black students,” Mr. Moody said in an interview.

Equity, Excellence

Over three-quarters of the superintendents polled said that the goals of equity and excellence are compatible and, in fact, “go hand in hand,” according to Mr. Moody.

The data represent preliminary findings from the national telephone survey, which the researcher hopes is only the first stage in a study on the condition of education for black students.--jh

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 1984 edition of Education Week as Heads of Black Districts Support Literacy Exit Exams