California Educator

October/November 2019

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Page 45 of 67

The Soledad Children: The Fight to End Discriminatory IQ Tests is a new book that looks at the push in California for equal edu- cational opportunities for nonwhite and non-English-speaking students back in the 1960s, but is all too relevant today. It is written by Marty Glick and Maurice Jourdane, then attorneys with California Rural Legal Assistance. CRLA filed a class action lawsuit in 1970 after discovering that schools were misusing culturally biased English-language IQ tests, by asking questions like "Who wrote Romeo and Juliet?" to place Spanish-speaking students into "educable mentally retarded" (EMR) classes. At least 13,000 farmworker and other second-language students were victims of these tests and dubbed EMR. Families were devastated by the stigma and lack of opportunity to learn. Mexican American children were not the only minority impacted. ey and African American students made up 21.5 percent of the state population but were 48 percent of special education programs at the time. The lawsuit, on behalf of the 13,000 students and another 100,000 at ri sk of b eing cat egori zed E MR , h elp ed secure students' removal from EMR classes and ensure revised, appro- priate testing for students throughout the state. He re i s a n e x c e r p t a d a p t e d a n d c o n d e n s e d f r o m t h e book's prologue: Arturo Velázquez, born and raised in a farm labor camp in Soledad, was bright, gregarious and energetic. When Arturo entered the first grade, he neither spoke nor understood any English. His teachers at the elementary school in East Soledad spoke only English in their classes. Arturo understood little of his first two years of instruc- tion but began to pick up English from some of his classmates and from his books. When he arrived at school for the third grade, he was given a timed IQ test in English. Arturo had trouble reading many of the words and ques- tions in the test. Many parts asked about things he did not understand, such as "Who was Genghis Khan?" and "Why is it better to pay bills by check than cash?" When Arturo came back to school the next day, he was told to go to a classroom where there were about a dozen Ending Biased IQ Tests New book tells of the fight to end discriminatory assessments The class picture of students who became known as "the Soledad children," circa 1970. Thousands of California students were dubbed "educable mentally retarded" as a result of culturally biased IQ tests. 44 Teaching & Learning

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