A new academic incentive program, implemented this year by two California high schools, has angered many students, parents and state education officials.

John F. Kennedy High School and Cypress High School, both public four-year schools in the Anaheim Union High School District, started a new incentive program for students based on their Standardized Testing and Reporting scores.

The schools issued color-coded ID cards to students with higher STAR scores and achievements. They were allowed discounts, privileges and shorter lunch lines.

This was until the school district was pressured to revise the program. The California Department of Education argued the cards violated state law and students’ privacy rights. I couldn’t agree more.

The program has clearly violated students’ privacy rights and has created a division among students based on academic scores. It has also embarrassed some students and as a result needs to be completely eliminated or immediately restructured.

This way of dividing students based on academic scores could in return have a reverse affect on students and they might not want to try anymore.

The color-coded identification cards are either black, gold or white.

Black cards are for students who have advanced in all subjects they were tested on the previous year. They receive free admission to all home athletic events and discounts to school dances and local businesses.

Gold card students must have scored proficient or above in at least two subjects the previous year, or improved in a least two subjects. These students receive more limited discounts and free admission to certain home games.

Those students with black or gold cards are allowed to enter the cafeteria through a separate line. I think lunch should be something that is equally available to all students and not looked at as an academic incentive.

Students who hold white cards receive no benefits, discounts or incentives. 

About 1,000 students have earned gold and black cards while the other estimated 1,400 have white cards, according to AUHSD district spokeswoman Pat Karlak.

A press release issued by the AUHSD said that the program was being modified because “some students have negatively interpreted some components of the program.”

This statement makes it sound like it is the students’ fault for not seeing the benefits of the program.

In reality, the district is denying students privileges that should be available to everyone.

A report from the California Department of Education draws speculation to why the color-coded ID cards were implemented in the first place.

John F. Kennedy High School failed to meet progress requirements mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 the last three years. Cypress High School didn’t meet the progress requirements in 2010.

Regardless of the reason, students’ test scores should never be publicly used the way AUHSD is using them.

Even though the school district said in early October that they will do away with the color-coded ID cards and privileges, students are still using these cards. I think they need to take the next step and issue all students universal cards without color-coding.

The school district should continue to follow through on their word and issue all students the same identification cards to make these academic incentives available to all.

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Krissa Stanton

Krissa Stanton