Cypress and Kennedy high schools in the Anaheim, California school district recently color coded students based on test scores. Every student was given a color coded ID card and binder. Besides creating a visible method for students to ostracize one another it also allowed the school the ostracize the students by giving the good test takers discounts and made the poor testers use a separate lunch line.
This horrific practice was instated to create an incentive for students to improve their test scores. Luckily, the Anaheim school district nixed the practice.
In a press release the school district stated:
The incentive programs at two AUHSD campuses were implemented with the best intentions. They were designed to support and encourage students to do their best on a state test they are mandated to take, but which does not directly impact their academic success in school.
If there has ever been a better indication that mandatory testing is not only useless, but also harmful this is it. Creating classes of students based on a test score that “does not directly impact their academic success” doesn’t help students. The incentive program itself is an absurd idea that is working at the problem backwards. A good grade in and of itself is a reward. Poor grades or test scores demotivate students by reinforcing low self-esteem in the students. Creating a prominent color coding system only agitates the negative feedback loop that students already suffer under.
Indeed, University of California professor, AnneMarie Conley, said that, “It goes against everything we know about student motivation and what helps students learn in productive ways.”
And while the school designed the system with the greatest of intentions, we all know what the road to hell is paved with. A system that encourages good test takers to view themselves as somehow better people, worthy of privileges and discounts that inferior students are not is an amazingly scary concept. It isn’t difficult to imagine that a color coded ID could quickly devolve into a dystopian eugenic nightmare where children can only socialize with a student of their class. There is no doubt that people at Cypress and Kennedy high schools would be aghast at the thought, but that doesn’t excuse them from steering the school system towards that darkened sky and rough murky waters.