“The world’s greatest problems do not result from people being unable to read and write. They result from people in the world-from different cultures, races, religions, and nations-being unable to get along and to work together to solve the world’s problems.” These statements by James A. Banks have made a profound impact on my view towards multicultural education and the nation’s current trend of standardization and high-stakes testing. Scholarly research shows that the emphasis placed on testing and standards, mandated by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, is causing teachers to focus entirely on basic skills in reading, writing, and math (Banks & Banks, 2010). This focus on basic skills is taking much needed time and attention away from multicultural education, and the teaching of social justice skills. These skills are critical to students becoming active citizens that can work together with all different groups to tackle the world’s issues. Thus, the problem and question for me becomes, how do we as educators maintain excellence and equity in our teaching through multicultural education, in the face of the standards and mandates set by NCLB and our state, so that no student-of any group-is left behind?
All Students Left Behind
NCLB was passed with a goal of closing the achievement gap between white students and their low-income and minority peers. However research over the past 10 years has found that the high-stakes testing policies have not improved reading and math achievement across states, and have not significantly narrowed national and state level achievement gaps (Au, 2009). In fact, the high stakes testing and standardization of classrooms has hurt the very students it set out to help. According to Haretos (2005), “the volatility in test scores makes it difficult for racially diverse schools to make adequate yearly progress (AYP), since every racial and ethnic subgroup must do so. Thus, when AYP is based on academic achievement levels, the subgroup rules create negative unintended consequences for the students they were designed to help, by disproportionately subjecting racially diverse schools to sanctions under NCLB.” This consequence also threatens to increase the growing dropout and push-out rates for students in these sub-groups (Darling-Hammond, 2007).
This paradox is not just affecting low-income and minority students, but also students in non-minority groups as well. When there is no time for focus on skills that students need to participate in social change, these students will not learn to question practices within society or to work with other students from all different groups and backgrounds in order to effect change. Classes in schools which may contribute to multicultural education, such as social studies and foreign language, are being cut completely in order to spend more time on reading and math (Au, 2009). According to Au (2009), since multi-cultural anti-racist perspectives and content are not...