Education Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor It Is No Time To Reinst

November 02, 1994 11 min read

It Is No Time To Reinstate Discriminatory I.Q. Tests

To the Editor:

I write to demand correction of two serious errors in a recent article (“Appeals Court Upholds Black Parents’ Right To Learn Child’s I.Q.,” Oct. 12, 1994). You were absolutely wrong to report that U.S. District Court Judge Robert F. Peckham “nevZV)ached a conclusion about whether [I.Q.] tests are racially biased” and that the appeals-court ruling now reinstitutes I.Q. testing for African-American students.

In his landmark 1979 ruling in Larry P. v. Riles, Judge Peckham detailed the racist animus behind the development of I.Q. tests in the country, the inability of these tests to define, much less measure, “intelligence,” and the fact that these tests are designed to measure the learning of only those children from white cultural backgrounds. Judge Peckham most definitely concluded that the I.Q. tests used in California’s public schools “are racially and culturally biased” and halted their use in identifying African-Americans as mildly mentally impaired and placing them in certain “dead end” classes.

The recent appeals-court ruling did not disturb Judge Peckham’s 1979 ruling, nor its own affirmance of that decision in 1986. Instead, it narrowly affirmed Judge Peckham’s 1992 decision to withdraw--on procedural grounds--a 1986 settlement reached by the state and the Larry P. plaintiffs broadly prohibiting I.Q. tests of African-American special-education students. At the same time, the courts have ordered new hearings in the case to determine the proper breadth of the 1979 I.Q. prohibition. The results of these hearings could be a prohibition against I.Q. use as broad as or broader than the former settlement agreement.

Thus, until the courts rule in the new hearings, no school district can reinstitute I.Q. testing on African-American schoolchildren, contrary to your reporting. A 1992 legal advisory and an Oct. 1, 1994, memorandum from the California Department of Education informed school districts in the state of precisely this reality.

Given the continued disproportionate labeling of African-Americans as neurologically impaired--as in “learning disabled” and “mentally retarded"--and the continued overrepresentation of these children in substandard, dead-end special-education classes, this is no time to suggest that discriminatory I.Q. tests are to be reinstated.

John T. Affeldt
Staff Attorney and Counsel for Larry P.
Public Advocates Inc.
San Francisco, Calif.

Editor’s Note: Lawyers on each side of this litigation have reached conflicting interpretations of both the federal appeals court and district court rulings in the case.

Public Advocates Inc. and the California Department of Education maintain that, despite the 1992 and 1994 rulings, a blanket ban on I.Q. testing of African-American children in the state remains in place. But lawyers with the Landmark Legal Foundation, which represents a group of black parents who want access to I.Q. tests for their children, argue that the rulings removed such a blanket ban against the use of the tests for all special-education purposes.

Judge Peckham’s 1979 ruling barred the use of I.Q. tests to place black children in classes for the educable mentally retarded “or their substantial equivalent.” His 1986 ruling in the case expanded the ban on I.Q. testing to evaluate black students referred for any special-education assessment.

However, the judge’s 1992 ruling, affirmed Sept. 30, 1994, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, clearly vacates the 1986 expansion of the I.Q.-testing ban, even if on narrow procedural grounds. The judge called for more hearings to determine whether the special-education classes of today are the equivalent of the “dead end” classes for the educable mentally retarded of 1979.

While it is a matter of great contention whether black parents in California may now seek I.Q. testing of their children for special-education purposes, Judge Peckham did state in his 1992 ruling that “the relief granted in the original [1979] action did not purport to limit access to testing” for the assessment and placement of black students with learning disabilities.

As for whether Judge Peckham reached conclusions about whether I.Q. tests themselves are racially biased, it is true that in his 1979 ruling he discussed extensively what he viewed as their racial and cultural biases and their lack of scientific validation. However, as the appeals court stated in its Sept. 30 opinion, “the focus of the district court’s [1979] inquiry was the disproportionate enrollment of African-American children in dead-end [educable mentally retarded] classes, not the use of I.Q. tests generally. Indeed, the district court stated that its decision ‘should not be construed as a final judgment on the scientific validity of intelligence tests.”’

Also, in his 1992 ruling, the judge said that he “would entertain suggestions for a more extensive proceeding to examine evidence of the racial bias of I.Q. tests and their disparate effect upon the placement of African-American children ... referred for special educational services. ...”

On-Line Admissions Service Offered Free to Colleges

To the Editor:

I was interviewed for “The Search Is On,” an article that appeared in your Oct. 5, 1994, issue. I would like to clarify that Carnegie Mellon University did not have to pay a fee to be able to accept CollegeLink applications, a service offered by Enrollment Technologies of Concord, Mass.

In fact, although CollegeLink would be worth the investment, the service is offered free to colleges and universities who wish to make this option available to students.

CollegeLink enables students to complete multiple, comprehensive college applications by simply entering the information once onto a disk using a pc or Macintosh. CollegeLink then processes the information and prints individual applications custom designed according to each school’s preferred format. For universities, such as Carnegie Mellon, the benefits include reduced processing time and applications that are completed more accurately.

As technology becomes ever more pervasive in our society, I agree with your assessment of the current trend for computers in higher education and feel that the college-application process will continue to change to fit the needs of students and colleges.

But please eliminate any confusion regarding CollegeLink.

Michael Steidel
Director of Admissions
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pa

A Ray of Hope for the ‘Future of Human Relations’

To the Editor

I enjoyed reading James Delisle’s Commentary (“Reach Out--But Don’t Touch,” Sept. 21, 1994). It was a ray of hope for the future of human relations.

As educators, we cannot distance ourselves from the needs of our students out of fear of reprimand or accusation. With the growth of violence in our nation and, indeed, metal detectors in our schools, it’s time to get back to basics.

Trust is a basic element in any relationship, and the teacher-student relationship is no exception. The congratulatory pat on the back, the hug of encouragement or reassurance, the shoulder to cry on are all as rudimentary as the handshake. We are losing a great deal when we succumb to fear and forgo these elements of trust in human relations in our schools.

Pat Bordin
San Bruno, Calif.

Political Use of California Test Came From Within System

To the Editor:

Nowhere in your coverage of the California Learning Assessment System, or CLAS, has a fundamental issue of instructional design been raised that is the most damning reason for the curtailment of the CLAS experiment (“Fate of California Testing Unclear After Wilson’s Veto,” Oct. 5, 1994).

In California, public schools are under a legal mandate to administer such tests. The innovative curricula with which the CLAS test is philosophically compatible can be found in state “frameworks” in the various subject fields developed under the supervision of the state department of education. Local districts are strongly encouraged, but not legally compelled by state law, as with testing, to implement these frameworks as a basis for instruction and assessment. Many local school boards, especially in southern California, inferred that the CLAS test was an attempt to force a state-level curriculum on their teachers and students.

That the CLAS test has developed into a “political issue” is obvious. If “blame” is to be assigned, however, it lies as much with those who attempted to use CLAS to promote their progressive educational and sociopolitical agendas as with anyone outside of the California educational establishment. Their attempts to “construct” a new meaning for assessment ran smack up against the reality of common sense and local public school control. Perhaps they’ve learned a lesson about the staying power and authority of received knowledge.

Alan Hull
LaSalle, Ill.

Viewing Reform Partnerships As ‘Big Brother’s Intrusion’

To the Editor:

Don Davies (“Partnerships for Reform,” Commentary, Oct. 12, 1994) just doesn’t get the message: Smart Americans don’t like partnerships with the government; and if public schools aren’t “government,” what are they?

Evidently there are still enough politically savvy (educated) Americans who reject such partnerships, having studied government intrusion in the home and family in countries such as Cuba, the former Soviet Union and Eastern-bloc countries, and especially in Communist China, from which some of Don Davies’s community-education research apparently has emanated. (See the 1981 book he edited, Communities and Their Schools.)

The Community Learning and Information Network Inc., or CLIN, incorporated in 1982, and supported by major corporations and education associations, will make Professor Davies’s dream come true. He won’t have to worry about cit~izens who “resist” Goals 2000 reform (don’t want to dance with the government). According to the CLIN fact sheet, “The CLIN concept is to implement a community-linked learning-technology and information-delivery system that uses information-age technologies, such as live two-way interactive video, networked computer-assisted learning, video programming, multimedia, interactive cable, and electronic mail (including electronic video mail) based on an ‘open systems’ architectural approach. CLIN Inc.'s goal is to link every public and private school in the United States, as well as every institution of higher education and corporate and industrial training sites.”

An information packet from the Community Learning and Information Network states: “CLIN has also developed international projects, to include an approved project with the People’s Republic of China sponsored by the highest levels of the Chinese government.”

Professor Davies’s concerns about lack of parental and taxpayer support for reform will also be dealt with when the National Goals Panel’s 235-page “Community Action Tool Kit,” the intent of which is to psychologically manipulate taxpayers into supporting Goals 2000, hits our communities. The “tool kit” recommends, among other techniques, these: “Describe allies and opponents; identify change agents; get the president of Hewlett Packard to write the chairman of the school board a letter supporting the proposal.” It also provides a case study of how Christian ministers were manipulated into supporting Goals 2000 in Edmonds, Wash.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famous Soviet dissident, issued an important warning when he said, “Coexistence on this tightly knit earth should be viewed as an existence not only without wars ... but also without [government] telling us how to live, what to say, what to think, what to know, and what not to know.”

So-called “peace” is breaking out all over the world. How long this type of peace will last will depend on the patience freedom-loving citizens have with Global Big Brother’s intrusion into the privacy of their homes and families.

Charlotte T. Iserbyt
Bath, Me.

The writer is a former senior policy adviser in the U.S. Education Department.

To the Editor:

Is it consumer demand or consumer fraud?

The family-community-teacher partnership Don Davies speaks of in his Commentary is a radical movement away from traditional American principles of the role of the parent and the school in the community. Should we be turning to “external demands” from the federal government to set standards and then “soft sell” local initiatives to sell them? Is the federal government overlooking a few legal issues like: local control, parents’ rights, privacy, and psychological manipulation? This is fraud.

These collaboratives are a combination of tactics to enforce and accept national goals, national testing, national curriculum, and teachers teaching to the beat of “Big Brother’s drum.” An advanced technological system, total quality management, will monitor and give feedback to trouble-shoot anyone or anything not meeting government goals. This is total systems alignment.

The first step is that communities and families must agree to give up those individual rights and basic principles to move forward in this new paradigm. The education “elite” must redefine the traditional “Ozzie and Harriet” family, and market the problems of society. “It’s so bad out there we have to do something.”

The first step will exclude the role and responsibility of the parents for their children. By legal definition, a partner has a joint ownership and equal jurisdiction, therefore demoting the parents’ status to that of one of the team members, teacher, principal, counselor, support teacher, or social worker. It’s a team concept. Any parent who disagrees with the team is labeled “dysfunctional” or “at risk.”

An Ozzie and Harriet family then becomes the target for remediation and “case management” in an Individual Family Service Plan. Ozzie and Harriet now have to go to “Parents as Teachers” parenting programs because they were not cooperative or flexible.

It doesn’t take a village to raise a child unless you live in a commune. Parents will no longer accept the masquerade, the dressed-up slogans, or the pretty pictures. The system has created the need and now the system wants to take over.

We have asked the school to educate our children, not infiltrate our homes. Partnerships will be the destruction of families.

Anita B. Hoge
West Alexander, Pa.

A version of this article appeared in the November 02, 1994 edition of Education Week as Letters to the Editor It Is No Time To Reinst