Holding signs with messages like “Jobs Not Jail,” “Park the PARCC,” and “We are students, not test scores,” about 100 students across Baltimore City walked out of their classrooms Friday afternoon to protest the PARCC standardized test, which they call a “mechanism of institutional racism.” The walkout culminated at a rally in front of the Baltimore City school headquarters on North Avenue.
Organizing the effort was the Baltimore Algebra Project, which is part of the OSI-funded Baltimore United for Change (BUC), a coalition of organizations and activists working for social justice in Baltimore. The PARCC test, the assessment that’s tied to Common Core Standards, is given in grades three through 12 across the state. Members of the Algebra Project say that the exam is not culturally relevant and provides only a narrow measure of what students are capable of.
According to the Washington Post, costs to implement the test are estimated at $100 million. That money, activists say, that could be used for things like student employment and internship opportunities. The Algebra Project also said it wants to see the tests replaced by more authentic measures of learning.
Dayvon Love, director of Research and Public Policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), another member of the BUC coalition, was at the rally. He explained that the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Freddie Gray last April can be tied to the failure of the school system to give students the tools they need.
“If we don’t address education,” Love said, “we will continue to produce circumstances that gave birth to the Freddie Gray incident we saw last April.”
According to WBAL, students did meet with school administrators ahead of the protest to express their concerns with the test.
Baltimore City schools released a statement Friday afternoon that read in part:
“Last night, Dr. Thornton and other district leaders met with organizers of the protest to understand student concerns and address questions. City schools leaders are committed to maintaining a good working relationship with the organizers in order to engage in ongoing productive discussions.”