Friday, November 21, 2014

More Than a Score: Review of a New Book by SPS Teacher

Garfield teacher (and activist) Jesse Hagopian has edited a new book on student testing called More Than a Score: the New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (with a foreword by Diane Ravitch). 

The book is a call to action but more than that, a good book for those who want to action but wonder if they can really make a difference.  The answer is, you can.  Hagopian calls those willing to stand up for opting out, testdefyers. 

More Than a Score brings together stories of the fight, poems and interviews with leaders about what testing does to students and how to fight for the right assessments and testing. What I really liked were the voices of students because like most of us when we are young, we don't know enough to be scared. 

- I learned from Mallory Clarke of Garfield that "the SEA president also moved to block donations for supporting the (MAP) boycott, out of feat that the organizing effort would move beyond his control.  Twice he inexplicably took credit for starting the boycott." 

- This from Brian Jones resonated with me:
When I was a student in public elementary schools, I definitely took tests.  I took tests created by the teachers and I even took some standardized tests.  However, I never remember anyone encouraging me to prepare for them.  I certainly do not remember feeling that my future, or the future of my teachers or of the school hung in the balance.  Tests were just tests. 
 - Minnesota teacher Mary Cathryn D. Ricker has this to say about rising up against testing:
Everyone is blindly assuming that "Well, if they tell us we need standardized tests, I guess we need to," and what we are seing is more and more people across the country who are actually saying, "You know what, I am starting to think that the emperor has no clothes either, I 'm starting to think that I have a voice and a say in this."
- A great idea from students, Cauldierre McKay, Aaron Regunberg and Tim Shea on what they did in Rhode Island:
We were having a conversation about what high-stakes testing does to students, when PSU member Cauldierre McKay mentioned that it basically turns students into test-taking, unthinking zombies.  A collective light went on.  We all agreed that the zombie image was a perfect symbol for our message about how this policy undermines real student success; it was a metaphor we knew the public would be able to grasp quickly and easily.
This was also the student group that got 50 adults to take their state test.   A full 60% of the adults did not score high enough for proficiency to graduate from high school. 

- Portland student Alexia Garcia had a story about trying to give some information to the Portland Business Association.  The students were referencing other systems like Finland. Here's how it turned out:
Ms. McDonough (head of the PBA) responded with curt condescension: "Have you every been to Finland?"  So there it was, all our points were invalid.  We walked out of that meeting shocked and confused, but with a greater understanding of the fight we were taking on; you cannot just reason with business interests and the profit motive, you have to build a base of power to challenge them.
Ms. Garcia also said this:
If there's one thing I've learned from our student organizing, it's that organizations do not necessarily care that student voice is authentic as long as it can be used to further their own agendas.  From Stand for Children, Students Matter, and StudentsFirst to Portland Public Schools, the list of organizations influencing and implementing policies in public education goes on and one.
A couple of essays are slow in places but you come away feeling inspired and hopeful about the courage being shown around the country.


Anastasia said...

Come meet Jesse and get a copy of his book at Elliot Bay Books on Tuesday, December 2, at 7pm. Also, there will be information about where and when you can learn more about opting out, what questions to ask teachers and how to become active before a new set of standardized tests descend on Seattle Public Schools in the spring of 2015.

Anonymous said...

"[Y]ou cannot just reason with business interests and the profit motive, you have to build a base of power to challenge them."


David Edelman