Testing unfair to Natives

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

What would Molly Hootch say about the current idea of high-stakes testing Alaska? Would she agree that it is a fair educational policy? Or is it more an indicator of which schools the state has invested more money in and which it has seemed to have forgotten rural ones oftentimes? Where are the Elizabeth Peratroviches of this generation to stand up in this 11th hour?

Yup'ik Harold Napoleon's excellent paper, titled, "Yuuyaraq: the Way of the Human Being," lists seven rights for Alaska Natives that will bring equity in Alaska. They are the rights to self-government, to create and enforce ordinances, to establish courts, to perform and even profit from subsistence activities without government interference, and to tax exemptions as experienced by all other Native Americans. I fully agree with him. That first one, the right to self-government, would give Alaska Natives more of a say in exit exam debate.

In a more perfect world, the state of Alaska would have to ask Alaska Natives for the permission of using high-stakes testing rather than the other way around, where people have to petition that the state remove such high stakes.

Some proponents of high-stakes testing argue it will bring encouragement to future students. But researcher Claudia Krenz, of Nikiski, responds that we should "never fail existing kids for some theoretical, future ones."

Indeed, the idea of using high stakes seems more and more like an intervention that alienates and punishes the very students it intends to help. It also may be a bit of a political fix that is not much more than a well-intentioned flat tire and we've have many of those in this state.

Here's one: a year after the 1964 earthquake, a village chief was utterly sick of non-Natives coming in and trying to "fix things." After enduring a year of partial fixes, lies and red tape, the chief finally had enough. His words are as appropriate today as they were then.

He said, "We are going to declare a three-month vacation and none of you white folks come."

Jonathan Doll


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