• Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Study Links High Stakes Testing to Higher Incarceration Rates

    A new study reveals states with high school exit exams have higher rates of incarceration and lower graduation rates -   July 19, 13
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


      Share to Twitter
    Share to Facebook

    The in-depth interviews with knowledgeable people are a gold mine to those of us with questing minds who are determined to pursue the facts, wherever they may lead. - Jennifer Humiston
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


    Study Links High Stakes Testing to Higher Incarceration RatesJAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

    The School-to-Prison Pipeline Exposed, a new study that's thus far received very little attention, has revealed that in states that use high-stakes exit exams, students who fail these tests were more than 12 percent more likely to face incarceration and had lower graduation rates than states without exit exams. Meanwhile, the study found no consistent effects of exit exams on employment or the distribution of wages.

    Now joining us to discuss this study are two guests.

    We're joined by Kevin Lang. He's professor of economics at Boston University. He has served on multiple National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences panels on education issues, including his most recent study, the effect of high school exit exams on graduation, employment, wages, and incarceration.

    And we're also joined by Jesse Hagopian. He teaches history and is the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School, the site of the historic boycott of the MAP test earlier this year. Jesse is an associate editor of the acclaimed Rethinking Schools magazine and founding member of Social Equality Educators, and blogs at I'

    Thank you so much for joining us.

    PROF. KEVIN LANG, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Pleasure to be here.

    JESSE HAGOPIAN, TEACHER, GARFIELD HIGH SCHOOL: Thanks a lot for having us.

    NOOR: So let's start with you, Kevin. Talk about why you did this study and the most important findings of this study.

    LANG: Well, I did this study because for two reasons. One is for 13 years I was an elected member of my local school board, and there were a lot of debates about whether our high-stakes tests were good or bad and who they were good for, and there wasn't a lot of good work that has been done on that. And I also get very interested because I served on some of the National Academy of Sciences panels which were trying to assess the effect.

    Now, the big results were: for most areas there really wasn't much of an effect. It was neither wonderful nor terrible. We didn't find big improvements in wages or people losing their earnings. We didn't find a large increase in the dropout rate. We found a small increase in the dropout rate partially offset by people getting the GED. But the one really disturbing result was the one that you've emphasized, which is that we saw a noticeable increase in the incarceration rate.

    NOOR: So, Kevin, particularly since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2002, we've seen a dramatic increase of high-stakes tests. And this has greatly expanded under the Obama administration. Talk more about why this finding should concern citizens of this country, especially people involved in public education.

    LANG: Well, a lot of people have thought that high-stakes testing was really going to be the way that the United States could catch up and surpass Finland and Singapore. I think the overwhelming evidence from all of the studies we've looked at is that the effects are not dramatic. And what we're finding is we're not finding any positive effects in our study, and we're finding one noticeably adverse effect. And I certainly think all of us should be concerned if indeed these sorts of tests increase the incarceration rate. That's certainly not good for the society and it's not good for the individuals who are affected.

    NOOR: I want to bring Jesse Hagopian into this discussion.

    Jesse, earlier this year you helped lead this historic boycott of your state's standardized highs-stakes tests. What's your reaction to this study?

    HAGOPIAN: Well, I want to thank Kevin for doing the hard work and looking in the right places and doing this study, because I think it's of immense help to educators across the nation. And it really shows what we've known for a long time. You know, I got started teaching in the 2001, 2002 school year just as No Child Left Behind was coming online, and I began teaching in Washington, D.C., in the shadow of the White House, only when you cross the Anacostia River, you're in a hole 'nother world. And I taught at an elementary school where we saw the lack of resources and the high-stakes testing just creating a social catastrophe.

    The first assignment I ever assigned student to those students in sixth grade was a show-and-tell assignment. And they went home and brought something back from their home that really showed who they were. And every single one of those students reached into their brown paper bag and pulled out a picture of a father or an uncle who was in prison.

    And this school-to-prison pipeline is a catastrophe in communities across the nation, and it's being fueled by this high-stakes testing regime. It's what educators have known for some time. And now we have concrete, irrefutable proof of that. And we, I think, will use that to build the best school system we can for our students.

    NOOR: And, Jesse, within the last few years, there's been a growing movement to oppose high-stakes testing. And you've become a leader and in some ways a spokesperson of this movement. You helped lead this one-of-a-kind boycott at Garfield High. What impact could this study have on the anti high-stakes testing movement around the country?

    HAGOPIAN: Yeah, I believe very strongly in parents, students, and teachers taking action to refuse these tests wherever possible. You know, the MAP tests that we were asked to give in the Seattle public schools was not a graduation requirement for our students, but it was part of this testing regime culture, and it was a high-stakes test for teachers that drove our evaluations. And it was a test that isn't aligned to our curriculum and continues to drive this culture of test prep in the classroom.

    And the culture of trust rep in the classroom kills the love of learning. And when that happens, the whole thing falls apart because students check out. They're more likely to be disruptive in the classroom. And then when you have zero-tolerance policies that have been copied and pasted from drug enforcement manuals into school manuals, what we're seeing is students get pushed out of school with higher suspension rates, especially of students of color, especially African-American students. And then we see them more likely to drop out. And what that's doing is basically just building a school-to-prison pipeline. And so part of my rationale for refusing to administer the MAP tests, for helping to organize the teachers at Garfield High School to refuse the map test, was to say, enough with the school to prison pipeline.

    NOOR: Kevin, what kind of feedback and what kind of reactions have you gotten to this study? Because this does put this whole testing agenda, this whole testing regime, instituted in many states across the country, it kind of challenges the whole premise that these high-stakes tests will improve outcomes. And, in fact, as we discussed, it actually increases the worst outcome. It's actually putting more students in prison. And just doing a simple Google search, I've noticed that this study has not been picked up by any major news outlets. It's been blogged on a few websites. But can you talk more about the reaction it's received?

    LANG: Well, I mean, there are two places where it gets reaction. It gets reaction in the academic area, and of course people tend to be nice, so I don't want to exaggerate, but people have been pleased that we were careful. We try not to exaggerate the results. There is--this is one study. There are other studies that can be done and other people can see if they find the same thing that we do.

    That said, I have received various emails from people who are very interested in this result, because obviously it's important if we find no positive effects and an adverse effect in a very important area where people obviously are being severely hurt if they are part of the group of people who end up in prison as a result of the high-stakes testing. Obviously that has elicited some interest at least in those quarters where people are already inclined to have their doubts about high-stakes testing.

    NOOR: Now, since the economic downturn a few years ago, around the country in almost every state we've seen school budgets being cut. The one place that's not being cut is high-stakes tests.

    HAGOPIAN: We have five state-mandated tests that the kids have to pass at Garfield High School on top of the MAP test, which, thankfully, because all the teachers, parents, and students at Garfield, we voted unanimously to refuse the test at Garfield High School. And, thankfully, the superintendent, after threatening us with ten-day suspension without pay and other unknown consequences, he finally backed down and made the MAP test optional for next year. And so we scored a huge victory against that test prep culture. But we still have those five state-mandated standardized tests that are going to disproportionately affect low-income and students of color, drive down their graduation rates. And then we know the facilities and the jail cells that are being built right now to house them.

    And in Seattle public schools, we were just audited by the Department of Justice, and they found that the suspension rates for black kids are twice that of white kids for the same infractions.

    And so we see the machinery of the school-to-prison pipeline. It's not a loose metaphor. It is a very consciously constructed project that needs to be deconstructed by people refusing these tests and by getting the study out that Kevin has done and making sure people understand the real consequences of a high-stakes testing regime. We can't have cruelty as part of education policy.

    NOOR: And, Kevin, let's end with you. I wanted to give you a chance to respond to my statement about how you've seen school budgets being cut around the country. The one thing that's not being cut is high-stakes testing, and as well as could you also talk about what you hope comes out of this study and how you hope people use it around the country.

    LANG: Well, I think--I hope that it creates additional skepticism about high school exit exams as a effective way of reforming schools. I don't want to come across as somebody who is absolutely opposed to testing. I have a more moderate opinion on that. But what we are not finding--this is consistent with what everyone else has found--we're not finding large positive effects. We are finding some noticeably negative effects.

    You can't put as much of the education reform eggs into the basket, into the high-stakes testing basket as seems to be the case in the federal initiative. That's what worries me. If we're going to reform education, we're going to have to think much more broadly and not think that just by doing a bunch of testing, things are going to change, 'cause they're not going to change significantly for the better, and possibly for the worse.

    NOOR: That's right. And, as you noted, we're using these tests to catch up with these other countries, for example, in Europe and elsewhere. But those countries, they don't use these tests. We're the only country that's so obsessed with these high-stakes standardized tests.

    But I want to thank you both, Kevin Lang and Jesse Hagopian, for joining us. Thank you so much.

    LANG: Thank you.

    HAGOPIAN: Thank you so much.

    NOOR: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


    Latest Stories

    The Modern History of Venezuela and Popular Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (9/9)
    An Asia "Pivot" Should Mean Cooperating with China to Solve the Global Environmental Crisis
    Assessing the U.S. Environmental Movement
    Intimidation and Political Interference Goes Unpunished in UAW Case
    Exclusive Investigation Uncovers How BP Uses Bribes To Do Business
    The Modern History of Venezuela, The Protests and Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (8/9)
    Greek Politics 4 Years After The Financial Crisis
    CBO Report Confirms U.S. Deficit Back to Normal Level
    Israel Uses Refugees as "Currency" in Arms Trade with Africa
    Who Will Pay for Climate Change Disaster?
    Canada Shifts to Right Under Harper, Mimicking the United States
    The Savings and Loan Crisis Demonstrates the Importance of Glass-Steagall
    South African Platinum Miner's Struggle Challenges ANC Leadership
    TRNN Original Report: Manning Determined to Fight Back After Army Upholds 35- Year Sentence
    Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre
    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7), Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting