Anaheim Schools Axe 'Humiliating' Color-Coded Student ID Program

Categories: School Daze
dunce-cap-150x150.jpg
The modern-day dunce cap?
The Anaheim Union High School District went under fire last week for segregating kids based on color, though not in the way you may think.  

Two schools, John F. Kennedy in La Palma and Cypress in Anaheim, required students to carry around identification cards and matching planners in colors that revealed how well they performed on standardized tests. At Kennedy, black cards were reserved for top scorers, gold cards were for the middle group and white cards were given to the lowest performers. (At Cypress, platinum replaced black.)

It was an incentive system--students with black, platinum and gold cards were rewarded with certain privileges and freebies, like school football game tickets, while those with white cards received no such perks and even had to wait in a designated (read: slower) line in the cafeteria.

Yeeeah, the system didn't pan out so well. Days after the Orange County Register broke the story last week, the district killed the program.  

Some parents and educators called the white cards the modern-day dunce cap or scarlet letter. One mom told the paper that a Kennedy administrator jokingly encouraged girls to go to dances with black-card holders instead of white-card holders. Education Week blogger Anthony Cody wrote that the program "essentially 'brands' students according to their academic performance on this one set of tests, and then rewards or humiliates them accordingly." 

State officials said the program violated student privacy laws, the Register reported. Though school administrators fought that claim, pointing out that actual test scores were always obscured. The program took into account whether one's scores improved or dropped from previous years, so it was possible for a student with a white card to have higher test scores that someone with a gold card.   

The Anaheim Union High School District, which equipped school-skipping kids with GPS devices earlier this year, will be replacing the ID cards and planners with new ones--all of the same color, and plans to find a new way to reward students who perform well on standardized tests. 

Cartoonist Donovan Wheeler has an idea.  


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