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Two seemingly unrelated stories in the news last week reveal the bankruptcy of the progressive mindset. In Dayton, Ohio, under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, the city’s Police Department is changing its passing grades–again–on tests for police recruits. Last Wednesday, in a report to Congress, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan revealed that up to 82 percent of public schools could be labeled “failing” because they don’t meet the requirements established by the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB). Duncan claimed the law needed to be “fixed.” In both cases, the “fix” is lowering standards.
In Dayton, the motive is racial. According to the Justice Department, which rejected the original scores submitted by the Dayton Civil Service Board, “not enough African-Americans passed the test.” Dayton needs a substantial number of new recruits to replace the “dozens” of officers who have filed for retirement. Yet the DOJ’s rejection of the original test has delayed hiring for months.
Perhaps some sort of rational argument could be made for the attempt to increase minority presence in the police and fire departments. Dayton is a city with a minority population of approximately 40 percent, but less than 10 percent of that minority is represented in either department. The city spent over $500,000 to settle a federal hiring discrimination lawsuit which mandates that they “diversify” both. Yet in November, when the city officials announced their intention to hire additional cops, more than 3,500 people showed up to take the test–but only 21 percent of them were minorities, which is nearly identical to the percentage which applied for the exam in 2006, prior to the suit.
Malik Aziz, president of the National Black Police Association, attributes this to a lack of recruitment efforts. “That’s a repeated recipe for failure. There is no season for recruiting–it happens year round. Departments who do this largely fail at recruiting minorities and long-term it’s a recipe for disaster.” Mr Aziz is referring to the fact that the department’s recruiting office was unmanned for a year prior to last May. But Police Chief Richard Biehl claims that was the result of budget cuts. And despite the city’s ability to recruit beyond its borders for this test, further budget cuts “will likely choke off recruiting efforts again after this testing cycle,” according to city officials.
The Justice Department’s solution? Dayton must lower the passing grade on the test scores. Again, one could make a rational argument for grading “on a curve,” were it not for one inconvenient reality: under the older requirements, candidates needed a grade of 66 percent on part one of the exam and 72 percent on part two. The new scoring requirements lower those grades to 58 percent and 63 percent, respectively. Thus, what would be considered failing in the first case and barely passing in the second (assuming one considers a passing grade to be 60 percent) becomes sufficient to be employed as a police officer in Dayton. Officials report that 258 more people “passed” the test, but the city refused to say how many of them were minorities.
Incredibly, such standards represented an improvement, at least with respect to the 2006 exam. According to DaytonDailyNews.com, the city set the passing grade that year at 70 percent, yet the pass rates for whites was 68.1 percent, while the pass rate for blacks was 28.7 percent. The results of that test engendered the lawsuit. The DOJ’s rationale? ”While African Americans constituted 16.2 percent of all applicants who took that examination, African Americans constituted only 7.6 percent of the applicants who passed that examination–a result that reduced the proportion of African American applicants under consideration by approximately 50 percent,” stated the lawsuit.
Dayton NAACP President Derrick Foward illuminated reality with regard to the latest exam. “The NAACP does not support individuals failing a test and then having the opportunity to be gainfully employed,” he said. Dayton Fraternal Order of Police President, Randy Beane offered another reality check. “It becomes a safety issue for the people of our community. It becomes a safety issue to have an incompetent officer next to you in a life and death situation,” he said.
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