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This is just (?) a test

There’s a generation gap when it comes to tests. If you’re getting up into the age when you start to joke on your birthday that you’re 39, and you’re not, you’ve never had to take a high stakes test, at least during your pre college days. If you’re young enough to have never used a typewriter you don’t know what it’s like to not have the pressure of tests to graduate.

For many these tests are a source of great stress. I watched kids who had completed their credit work years earlier coming back to campus to retake their graduation tests again because they’ve failed them in their past.  In one infamous case a girl was class valedictorian yet was incapable of passing the graduation tests.  Although I give the kids credit for coming back so they can hopefully pass the test, I felt for these 20 and sometimes 21 year olds still trying to earn a valid High School diploma. The burden for passing these tests falls more on the poor and disenfranchised than among the rest of the population.

Enter 2013. Louisiana passes a law which requires all juniors to take the ACT test. The law also expects a junior in Louisiana to score an 18 on the test. While the student will not be required to make this score to graduate, the school will be held responsible for students who don’t score an 18.  In Louisiana the average score for an African American (the large majority in my school) taking the ACT is 17.5.  Until now, those taking the ACT and scoring 17.5 were willing to take the test, in other words trying their best.  Tomorrow when juniors all over the state take this test many will take it with the attitude that they don’t plan to go to college.  Now if you weren’t planning to go to college, how much effort would you put into taking a test like this?

So in a few months when the school performance score for the ACT comes out it will undoubtedly show many schools, particularly in underserved communities as being lacking in educating students.  There are hardworking teachers in these schools, I even know some!  The result will be more scrutiny for the school, staff being removed, administration being ‘reassigned’, etc.  Many of the schools in my district have different principals  each year, sometimes, more than one in a year.  Morale sinks among the staff and even the student body as the news reports of a school given a grade of ‘F’.

Here’s where the just part of things works into the equation.  Justice is a theme in the Bible that hasn’t always been stressed in our churches.  It’s been said King James didn’t like the term too much, so it appears 28 times in his famous version.  The New Revised Standard Version uses the word justice 173 times.  In something called the Common English version it’s used 220 times.  I would lean towards the NRSV in terms of its’ treatment of the word justice.  We are to work for justice.  Christians are supposed to be agents of justice.  Justice for the poor, disenfranchised, underserved, for the widows, orphans and others who are being denied opportunities for any number of reasons.

What can you do to be agents for justice?  Some can work to change unjust laws.   Letters can be written to papers, politicians, and school boards.  Volunteer in schools.  Volunteer to sit with a kid to read with him or her.  Become a teacher!  And if you do, consider teaching in the schools that need good teachers the most.  Give a word of encouragement to a teacher. (I know this sounds self serving!)  Pray for our schools.  Pray tonight for students that the unmotivated will find it within themselves to put in an honest effort tomorrow.  These are all actions that will bring about justice.

Proverbs 21:3  Acting with righteousness and justice is more valued by the Lord than sacrifice.

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