Seeking to recognize the achievements of its students on state standardized tests, Kennedy High School in La Palma, California, came up with a plan that forced students to carry color-coded identification cards based on their test scores. With the program now in its second year, state officials have deemed it a violation of privacy and told the school to change it.
Kennedy requires students to carry school IDs and a school planner that are either black, gold, or white, and the colors are based on the students’ scores on California’s standardized assessment test. The black and gold cards, for the two highest levels of achievers, allow the students “a range of special campus privileges and discounts,” according to the Orange County Register. But the white card, reserved for the lowest achievers, allows no such privileges and even forces students to use a separate line in the cafeteria.
A representative of the school district said Kennedy was just trying to reward its top students and wasn’t trying to release confidential information, the Register reports:
“Kennedy’s sole motivation was recognizing kids for their achievement,” district spokeswoman Pat Karlak said. “At this point, we’ll look into this to determine if unintentionally, confidential information has been released; clearly, we have no intention of doing that.”
Subjugating and publicly humiliating an entire group of students over their test scores is “one of the worst ideas ever” educational psychologist AnneMarie Conley told the Register, adding that “there’s absolutely no research to support” the plan. “Girls, minorities, the ones we want to enter science, technology, engineering and math fields – they will decide they just can’t do it, or they’re not going to go to college,” Conley said. “The people for whom this program is not working are the ones the school is supposed to be protecting.”
Principals at multiple district schools have defended the program, saying it motivates students for the tests and rewards those who prepare and perform best. Surely, though, there are ways to motivate students and reward high-achievers in ways that don’t turn lower-achieving students into second class citizens.