Guest Commentary: Parents Call for Boycott of STAR Program

Parents of Black children and other parents supporting justice for all children are asked to have their children boycott the upcoming STAR testing next week (starting 4/24 in most Davis schools.). We are protesting the inaction of the Davis school district in remedying racial disparities in discipline and other schooling experiences and the lack of African American and other underrepresented teachers of color throughout the district. Out of nearly 500 teachers, there are less than 6 African Americans. The largest school, Davis High, has had no African American teachers for the last several years. We will not participate in a testing process that labels as “adequate” the current educational environment for Black and other children.

We are asking the district to immediately investigate the March suspensions of three African American students for a verbal altercation that involved no racial slurs and no physical contact. The White girls involved, one of whom initiated the conflict by bumping an African American student, were not suspended. The first Black student was suspended for the verbal altercation. The district tells us the latter two were suspended for disrespect to administrators.

A fourth African American girl was believed by administrators when she said she had not insulted the White students on a separate occasion. Why wasn’t the truth of all the White girls’ accusations called into question when this lone African American student was believed? At what point do you hold adult administrators responsible for students’ frustration and anger at being continually falsely accused and not believed?

We are asking for these 3 suspensions to be overturned, for the district to conduct in-depth case studies of each of these suspensions for racial bias and procedural errors that might lead to identifiable reasons for racial disparities in discipline patterns across the district. With a little courage and leadership, this could be a teachable moment for all district staff and parents, in the lives of all of our Davis children, and in the thus-far very slow district action in the quest for equity in our schools.

Your simple one sentence written note will exempt your child from the STAR exam next week. Include your child’s name, birth date and grade. Please help us accelerate the call for justice in our “excellent” schools by engaging in this time-tested, nonviolent strategy for social change. Call parents Bernita Toney (753-8393) for more information.

For further information, please click here to read the Star Boycott Options

—Bernita Toney, Davis, CA

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Civil Rights

92 comments

  1. Hey, sounds like a fantastic idea, boycott testing and jeopardize the funding of all schools. Sounds like a wonderful way to raise support for your ideas. In the end all that will be accomplished is the alienation of the majority of Davis parents and substantially closing off their willingness to listen to your cause.

  2. Hey, sounds like a fantastic idea, boycott testing and jeopardize the funding of all schools. Sounds like a wonderful way to raise support for your ideas. In the end all that will be accomplished is the alienation of the majority of Davis parents and substantially closing off their willingness to listen to your cause.

  3. Hey, sounds like a fantastic idea, boycott testing and jeopardize the funding of all schools. Sounds like a wonderful way to raise support for your ideas. In the end all that will be accomplished is the alienation of the majority of Davis parents and substantially closing off their willingness to listen to your cause.

  4. Hey, sounds like a fantastic idea, boycott testing and jeopardize the funding of all schools. Sounds like a wonderful way to raise support for your ideas. In the end all that will be accomplished is the alienation of the majority of Davis parents and substantially closing off their willingness to listen to your cause.

  5. I guess if funding were jeopardized, the parents of the other children may actually care about what these parents have to say, don’t you think?

    The problem in this town is that unless you are personally affected by this stuff you can pretty much bury your head in the sand. This should serve as a wake up call–parents need to hear it–because my sense is that this thing is at a boiling point and that the majority of the parents are not listening.

  6. I guess if funding were jeopardized, the parents of the other children may actually care about what these parents have to say, don’t you think?

    The problem in this town is that unless you are personally affected by this stuff you can pretty much bury your head in the sand. This should serve as a wake up call–parents need to hear it–because my sense is that this thing is at a boiling point and that the majority of the parents are not listening.

  7. I guess if funding were jeopardized, the parents of the other children may actually care about what these parents have to say, don’t you think?

    The problem in this town is that unless you are personally affected by this stuff you can pretty much bury your head in the sand. This should serve as a wake up call–parents need to hear it–because my sense is that this thing is at a boiling point and that the majority of the parents are not listening.

  8. I guess if funding were jeopardized, the parents of the other children may actually care about what these parents have to say, don’t you think?

    The problem in this town is that unless you are personally affected by this stuff you can pretty much bury your head in the sand. This should serve as a wake up call–parents need to hear it–because my sense is that this thing is at a boiling point and that the majority of the parents are not listening.

  9. I don’t agree with this boycott. I think that there is more to what happened than is described here. And do not see how the boycott of STAR testing addresses the issues that need to be resolved.

    I do not agree with suspending the students for speaking their mind, however.

  10. I don’t agree with this boycott. I think that there is more to what happened than is described here. And do not see how the boycott of STAR testing addresses the issues that need to be resolved.

    I do not agree with suspending the students for speaking their mind, however.

  11. I don’t agree with this boycott. I think that there is more to what happened than is described here. And do not see how the boycott of STAR testing addresses the issues that need to be resolved.

    I do not agree with suspending the students for speaking their mind, however.

  12. I don’t agree with this boycott. I think that there is more to what happened than is described here. And do not see how the boycott of STAR testing addresses the issues that need to be resolved.

    I do not agree with suspending the students for speaking their mind, however.

  13. “I think that there is more to what happened than is described here. “

    I’m all ears. Because it is fairly accurate to me.

    Folks, you guys need to all wake up and do so now because things are on the verge of really getting ugly.

  14. “I think that there is more to what happened than is described here. “

    I’m all ears. Because it is fairly accurate to me.

    Folks, you guys need to all wake up and do so now because things are on the verge of really getting ugly.

  15. “I think that there is more to what happened than is described here. “

    I’m all ears. Because it is fairly accurate to me.

    Folks, you guys need to all wake up and do so now because things are on the verge of really getting ugly.

  16. “I think that there is more to what happened than is described here. “

    I’m all ears. Because it is fairly accurate to me.

    Folks, you guys need to all wake up and do so now because things are on the verge of really getting ugly.

  17. Dear People’s Vanguard Readers,

    I have been asked in several forums about STAR testing over the past two days. I want to make it very clear that the boycott will serve neither the organizer’s goals nor the individual students’ academic needs.

    In my short tenure here, I have been happy to meet with community groups about their concerns with the district. We do have issues of differential student achievement, and we do need to address them. A boycott only keeps us from collecting important information about achievement; it hampers us rather than helps us in addressing the issues because we won’t know at what grade levels or in what strands of the curriculum we are failing certain groups of students. It’s a mistake to boycott.

    Other bloggers are correct about the possible outcomes of not meeting the state’s and federal government’s testing requirements. If we don’t test 95% of our students, in the aggregate and in each subgroup, our Title I schools and the district as a whole will be designated as “Program Improvement” eventually. This means state-ordered reviews with the possibility of sanctions if it happens over multiple years.

    The state and federal accountability issues, though, are a secondary concern. We need current data about each child, for that child’s sake, so we know if there are critical skills and knowledge that haven’t yet been acquired in the classroom, and that we need to remediate so that child can go on to success for his or her stay in our district. We need it so that we can evaluate our curriculum across groups of students, for instance at a certain grade level or at a certain school. Maybe the textbook is not providing coverage. Maybe we are not covering the standards that are being tested effectively. Maybe we are not reteaching the students who “don’t quite get it” the first time. If we are going to offer our children a successful educational experience, we need the information about what they’ve learned.

    With respect to Ms. Toney’s requests of the district, many of them could become the basis for a reasonable discussion. I have already advocated that we review our discipline policy and make sure we are using best practice in a way that separates behavior from academic success. I’m also happy to take a look at the data with respect to disproportionate suspensions. I think some of the suggestions regarding language accessibility of our district documents are good ones, too.

    We are already underway with other of these suggestions, such as the training regarding unconscious bias. I will be meeting with a trainer in the next several weeks and we currently plan to offer the training to all administrators. We are also actively seeking new venues to recruit teachers of color.

    In summary, we are already making a concerted effort to respond to these concerns, and most importantly, the concerns about student achievement. A boycott will set us back with respect to the data we use to evaluate that concern. A boycott also won’t move us forward on the other issues. Meetings, and developing a common understanding of the issues, and setting out a mutually understood work plan, will move us forward.

    Please don’t boycott the STAR test. Boycotting the test is not a child-centered decision.

    Thank you for your time and thanks to the People’s Vanguard for creating a forum in which the community talks about education.

    Best regards,

    Richard Whitmore

  18. Dear People’s Vanguard Readers,

    I have been asked in several forums about STAR testing over the past two days. I want to make it very clear that the boycott will serve neither the organizer’s goals nor the individual students’ academic needs.

    In my short tenure here, I have been happy to meet with community groups about their concerns with the district. We do have issues of differential student achievement, and we do need to address them. A boycott only keeps us from collecting important information about achievement; it hampers us rather than helps us in addressing the issues because we won’t know at what grade levels or in what strands of the curriculum we are failing certain groups of students. It’s a mistake to boycott.

    Other bloggers are correct about the possible outcomes of not meeting the state’s and federal government’s testing requirements. If we don’t test 95% of our students, in the aggregate and in each subgroup, our Title I schools and the district as a whole will be designated as “Program Improvement” eventually. This means state-ordered reviews with the possibility of sanctions if it happens over multiple years.

    The state and federal accountability issues, though, are a secondary concern. We need current data about each child, for that child’s sake, so we know if there are critical skills and knowledge that haven’t yet been acquired in the classroom, and that we need to remediate so that child can go on to success for his or her stay in our district. We need it so that we can evaluate our curriculum across groups of students, for instance at a certain grade level or at a certain school. Maybe the textbook is not providing coverage. Maybe we are not covering the standards that are being tested effectively. Maybe we are not reteaching the students who “don’t quite get it” the first time. If we are going to offer our children a successful educational experience, we need the information about what they’ve learned.

    With respect to Ms. Toney’s requests of the district, many of them could become the basis for a reasonable discussion. I have already advocated that we review our discipline policy and make sure we are using best practice in a way that separates behavior from academic success. I’m also happy to take a look at the data with respect to disproportionate suspensions. I think some of the suggestions regarding language accessibility of our district documents are good ones, too.

    We are already underway with other of these suggestions, such as the training regarding unconscious bias. I will be meeting with a trainer in the next several weeks and we currently plan to offer the training to all administrators. We are also actively seeking new venues to recruit teachers of color.

    In summary, we are already making a concerted effort to respond to these concerns, and most importantly, the concerns about student achievement. A boycott will set us back with respect to the data we use to evaluate that concern. A boycott also won’t move us forward on the other issues. Meetings, and developing a common understanding of the issues, and setting out a mutually understood work plan, will move us forward.

    Please don’t boycott the STAR test. Boycotting the test is not a child-centered decision.

    Thank you for your time and thanks to the People’s Vanguard for creating a forum in which the community talks about education.

    Best regards,

    Richard Whitmore

  19. Dear People’s Vanguard Readers,

    I have been asked in several forums about STAR testing over the past two days. I want to make it very clear that the boycott will serve neither the organizer’s goals nor the individual students’ academic needs.

    In my short tenure here, I have been happy to meet with community groups about their concerns with the district. We do have issues of differential student achievement, and we do need to address them. A boycott only keeps us from collecting important information about achievement; it hampers us rather than helps us in addressing the issues because we won’t know at what grade levels or in what strands of the curriculum we are failing certain groups of students. It’s a mistake to boycott.

    Other bloggers are correct about the possible outcomes of not meeting the state’s and federal government’s testing requirements. If we don’t test 95% of our students, in the aggregate and in each subgroup, our Title I schools and the district as a whole will be designated as “Program Improvement” eventually. This means state-ordered reviews with the possibility of sanctions if it happens over multiple years.

    The state and federal accountability issues, though, are a secondary concern. We need current data about each child, for that child’s sake, so we know if there are critical skills and knowledge that haven’t yet been acquired in the classroom, and that we need to remediate so that child can go on to success for his or her stay in our district. We need it so that we can evaluate our curriculum across groups of students, for instance at a certain grade level or at a certain school. Maybe the textbook is not providing coverage. Maybe we are not covering the standards that are being tested effectively. Maybe we are not reteaching the students who “don’t quite get it” the first time. If we are going to offer our children a successful educational experience, we need the information about what they’ve learned.

    With respect to Ms. Toney’s requests of the district, many of them could become the basis for a reasonable discussion. I have already advocated that we review our discipline policy and make sure we are using best practice in a way that separates behavior from academic success. I’m also happy to take a look at the data with respect to disproportionate suspensions. I think some of the suggestions regarding language accessibility of our district documents are good ones, too.

    We are already underway with other of these suggestions, such as the training regarding unconscious bias. I will be meeting with a trainer in the next several weeks and we currently plan to offer the training to all administrators. We are also actively seeking new venues to recruit teachers of color.

    In summary, we are already making a concerted effort to respond to these concerns, and most importantly, the concerns about student achievement. A boycott will set us back with respect to the data we use to evaluate that concern. A boycott also won’t move us forward on the other issues. Meetings, and developing a common understanding of the issues, and setting out a mutually understood work plan, will move us forward.

    Please don’t boycott the STAR test. Boycotting the test is not a child-centered decision.

    Thank you for your time and thanks to the People’s Vanguard for creating a forum in which the community talks about education.

    Best regards,

    Richard Whitmore

  20. Dear People’s Vanguard Readers,

    I have been asked in several forums about STAR testing over the past two days. I want to make it very clear that the boycott will serve neither the organizer’s goals nor the individual students’ academic needs.

    In my short tenure here, I have been happy to meet with community groups about their concerns with the district. We do have issues of differential student achievement, and we do need to address them. A boycott only keeps us from collecting important information about achievement; it hampers us rather than helps us in addressing the issues because we won’t know at what grade levels or in what strands of the curriculum we are failing certain groups of students. It’s a mistake to boycott.

    Other bloggers are correct about the possible outcomes of not meeting the state’s and federal government’s testing requirements. If we don’t test 95% of our students, in the aggregate and in each subgroup, our Title I schools and the district as a whole will be designated as “Program Improvement” eventually. This means state-ordered reviews with the possibility of sanctions if it happens over multiple years.

    The state and federal accountability issues, though, are a secondary concern. We need current data about each child, for that child’s sake, so we know if there are critical skills and knowledge that haven’t yet been acquired in the classroom, and that we need to remediate so that child can go on to success for his or her stay in our district. We need it so that we can evaluate our curriculum across groups of students, for instance at a certain grade level or at a certain school. Maybe the textbook is not providing coverage. Maybe we are not covering the standards that are being tested effectively. Maybe we are not reteaching the students who “don’t quite get it” the first time. If we are going to offer our children a successful educational experience, we need the information about what they’ve learned.

    With respect to Ms. Toney’s requests of the district, many of them could become the basis for a reasonable discussion. I have already advocated that we review our discipline policy and make sure we are using best practice in a way that separates behavior from academic success. I’m also happy to take a look at the data with respect to disproportionate suspensions. I think some of the suggestions regarding language accessibility of our district documents are good ones, too.

    We are already underway with other of these suggestions, such as the training regarding unconscious bias. I will be meeting with a trainer in the next several weeks and we currently plan to offer the training to all administrators. We are also actively seeking new venues to recruit teachers of color.

    In summary, we are already making a concerted effort to respond to these concerns, and most importantly, the concerns about student achievement. A boycott will set us back with respect to the data we use to evaluate that concern. A boycott also won’t move us forward on the other issues. Meetings, and developing a common understanding of the issues, and setting out a mutually understood work plan, will move us forward.

    Please don’t boycott the STAR test. Boycotting the test is not a child-centered decision.

    Thank you for your time and thanks to the People’s Vanguard for creating a forum in which the community talks about education.

    Best regards,

    Richard Whitmore

  21. “We are protesting the inaction of the Davis school district in remedying racial disparities in discipline and other schooling experiences and the lack of African American and other underrepresented teachers of color throughout the district. Out of nearly 500 teachers, there are less than 6 African Americans. The largest school, Davis High, has had no African American teachers for the last several years.”

    It is illegal — let me repeat that, illegal — for the school district to recruit or hire anyone on the basis of his race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

    Here is the wording of our state’s civil rights law (1996):

    (a) The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

    (f) For the purposes of this section, “state” shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the state itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the state.

    So blaming the DJUSD for the fact that there are not many black teachers is misguided.

    Nevertheless, Ms. Toney, I have a constructive suggestion for you that I hope you would consider taking up: as a private group, nothing is stopping you and the other black parents and your sympathizers from privately recruiting African-American teachers to come to Davis to teach. While you cannot hire them yourselves, you can reach out to them and encourage them to apply for teaching positions in Davis. You can tell them what a wonderful town Davis is. You can tell them what wonderful schools we have. You can tell them how well our increasingly diverse community works together.

    Your group can be a great benefit to our community, if you would take up this cause. Complaining to the District about something that it cannot legally do on its own doesn’t help anyone. But actually getting out there, finding good black teaching candidates and encouraging them to work in Davis would benefit everyone.

  22. “We are protesting the inaction of the Davis school district in remedying racial disparities in discipline and other schooling experiences and the lack of African American and other underrepresented teachers of color throughout the district. Out of nearly 500 teachers, there are less than 6 African Americans. The largest school, Davis High, has had no African American teachers for the last several years.”

    It is illegal — let me repeat that, illegal — for the school district to recruit or hire anyone on the basis of his race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

    Here is the wording of our state’s civil rights law (1996):

    (a) The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

    (f) For the purposes of this section, “state” shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the state itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the state.

    So blaming the DJUSD for the fact that there are not many black teachers is misguided.

    Nevertheless, Ms. Toney, I have a constructive suggestion for you that I hope you would consider taking up: as a private group, nothing is stopping you and the other black parents and your sympathizers from privately recruiting African-American teachers to come to Davis to teach. While you cannot hire them yourselves, you can reach out to them and encourage them to apply for teaching positions in Davis. You can tell them what a wonderful town Davis is. You can tell them what wonderful schools we have. You can tell them how well our increasingly diverse community works together.

    Your group can be a great benefit to our community, if you would take up this cause. Complaining to the District about something that it cannot legally do on its own doesn’t help anyone. But actually getting out there, finding good black teaching candidates and encouraging them to work in Davis would benefit everyone.

  23. “We are protesting the inaction of the Davis school district in remedying racial disparities in discipline and other schooling experiences and the lack of African American and other underrepresented teachers of color throughout the district. Out of nearly 500 teachers, there are less than 6 African Americans. The largest school, Davis High, has had no African American teachers for the last several years.”

    It is illegal — let me repeat that, illegal — for the school district to recruit or hire anyone on the basis of his race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

    Here is the wording of our state’s civil rights law (1996):

    (a) The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

    (f) For the purposes of this section, “state” shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the state itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the state.

    So blaming the DJUSD for the fact that there are not many black teachers is misguided.

    Nevertheless, Ms. Toney, I have a constructive suggestion for you that I hope you would consider taking up: as a private group, nothing is stopping you and the other black parents and your sympathizers from privately recruiting African-American teachers to come to Davis to teach. While you cannot hire them yourselves, you can reach out to them and encourage them to apply for teaching positions in Davis. You can tell them what a wonderful town Davis is. You can tell them what wonderful schools we have. You can tell them how well our increasingly diverse community works together.

    Your group can be a great benefit to our community, if you would take up this cause. Complaining to the District about something that it cannot legally do on its own doesn’t help anyone. But actually getting out there, finding good black teaching candidates and encouraging them to work in Davis would benefit everyone.

  24. “We are protesting the inaction of the Davis school district in remedying racial disparities in discipline and other schooling experiences and the lack of African American and other underrepresented teachers of color throughout the district. Out of nearly 500 teachers, there are less than 6 African Americans. The largest school, Davis High, has had no African American teachers for the last several years.”

    It is illegal — let me repeat that, illegal — for the school district to recruit or hire anyone on the basis of his race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

    Here is the wording of our state’s civil rights law (1996):

    (a) The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

    (f) For the purposes of this section, “state” shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the state itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the state.

    So blaming the DJUSD for the fact that there are not many black teachers is misguided.

    Nevertheless, Ms. Toney, I have a constructive suggestion for you that I hope you would consider taking up: as a private group, nothing is stopping you and the other black parents and your sympathizers from privately recruiting African-American teachers to come to Davis to teach. While you cannot hire them yourselves, you can reach out to them and encourage them to apply for teaching positions in Davis. You can tell them what a wonderful town Davis is. You can tell them what wonderful schools we have. You can tell them how well our increasingly diverse community works together.

    Your group can be a great benefit to our community, if you would take up this cause. Complaining to the District about something that it cannot legally do on its own doesn’t help anyone. But actually getting out there, finding good black teaching candidates and encouraging them to work in Davis would benefit everyone.

  25. Rich:

    What is legal is for the district to recruit and encourage people of color to apply for positions and that is where the focus has been and needs to increase.

    This is an issue that has been simmering for a long time, it has increased this last year and the public is largely unaware of it. I’m not just talking about the hiring issue, but the climate itself in the schools and this town.

    One thing that the city council was correct about last year–this was not just an issue about the police–this was a community issue. Last year the venue for that was the HRC and the police. This year it appears to be the school district.

  26. Rich:

    What is legal is for the district to recruit and encourage people of color to apply for positions and that is where the focus has been and needs to increase.

    This is an issue that has been simmering for a long time, it has increased this last year and the public is largely unaware of it. I’m not just talking about the hiring issue, but the climate itself in the schools and this town.

    One thing that the city council was correct about last year–this was not just an issue about the police–this was a community issue. Last year the venue for that was the HRC and the police. This year it appears to be the school district.

  27. Rich:

    What is legal is for the district to recruit and encourage people of color to apply for positions and that is where the focus has been and needs to increase.

    This is an issue that has been simmering for a long time, it has increased this last year and the public is largely unaware of it. I’m not just talking about the hiring issue, but the climate itself in the schools and this town.

    One thing that the city council was correct about last year–this was not just an issue about the police–this was a community issue. Last year the venue for that was the HRC and the police. This year it appears to be the school district.

  28. Rich:

    What is legal is for the district to recruit and encourage people of color to apply for positions and that is where the focus has been and needs to increase.

    This is an issue that has been simmering for a long time, it has increased this last year and the public is largely unaware of it. I’m not just talking about the hiring issue, but the climate itself in the schools and this town.

    One thing that the city council was correct about last year–this was not just an issue about the police–this was a community issue. Last year the venue for that was the HRC and the police. This year it appears to be the school district.