stephanie jones

Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

Day Two: More Strikes, and Some Activism

In communities, critical literacy, families, high-stakes tests, NCLB, personal narratives, politics, social action on April 23, 2009 at 1:16 am

Hayden came home from the first day of testing and seemed mostly fine – she had a dance recital rehearsal and seemed content to put 100% of herself into dancing, so I thought things had gone fine.

Things looked even better when at 6:00 this morning I realized Hayden had slept all night, but they quickly fell apart.

“Mommy,” sniffle, cry, cry, “I don’t wanna go to school today.”

“What is it honey?”

“My stomach hurts.”

And so on and so on.

Right before 7:00 (when the bus is going to pull up) she tells me, “The test is sooo long and sooo boring, and we have to wait for EVERY SINGLE KID to finish, and it’s sooo long…”

and the best part:

“…and one reading part was so long and I didn’t like it, so I just didn’t read it and just guessed at the answers. I’m sure I got ’em right though.”

“I’m sure you did sweetie…”


“Hayden’s not feeling well, so she won’t be riding the bus this morning.”

“But they have their big test today,” the bus driver tells me.

“I know.”


Hayden decides to write a letter to Governor Sonny Perdue (and plans to write one to Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton). She uses colorful markers and five pages (I’ll make a pdf of it at some point and post it here).


I am being very patient with Hayden and really listening to her. But I tell her that if she doesn’t go to school today, they will just make her take the test when she goes back to school.

“I know mom, but it will be a make-up test and there won’t be so many kids.”

Ahhhh….she has the whole thing figured out already, and she’s only been through one day of testing.


I’m getting closer to convincing her to let me drive her to school – but mostly because I’m starting to feel anxious about the meetings and other work waiting for me at the office (just being honest here…)


The phone rings.

“Where is my little friend?” Hayden’s teacher asks.

“I’m trying to convince her to come to school,” I say, then give the phone to Hayden.

Hayden tells Ms. Keller all about her letter to the governor, and Ms. Keller asks Hayden to include the fact that she doesn’t like the tests either. Hayden smiles and looks at me. I can see she’s ready to go – perhaps she just needed an ally from school.

“Stephanie, if she’s not here before 8:30 they’ll keep her in the gym [until the end of testing]”

“Okay. We’re on our way.”

We jump up, grab our things, and run out the door, pulling up in front of the school at 8:28. Hayden gives me a high-five, holds onto her letter to show her teacher, and tells me she’s going to kick the CRCT’s butt.

While she’s at school her teacher tells her about a website where you can submit a letter to the governor online. Hayden’s pumped. Before she goes to bed she dictates the following to me and we send it to Governor Perdue:

Dear Governor Perdue,

Please stop the CRCT. It is boring. You may think that it helps us but it doesn’t. You made it happen so make it STOP!!!

My friends Avery, Emma, Mason, Anna, Naiya, De’Andrea, and Wendolyn and Jimena and all of the rest think that the CRCT is very, very, very boring. And we had to practice for many, many days, and we shouldn’t have practice because we would see it on the real day!

Some of the test is really easy, but all the answers on the test might seem like they’re right, but they’re not. If you had kids, would you like to make your kids do a test and they’ll be tricked, and then they’ll be against you about the test? Because you would like it and they wouldn’t?

We should be learning about the earth, and how Earth Day started – and by the way, Happy Earth Day! And I think you’re a great governor.

So are you with me? Or against me?

I think that the CRCT is unstoppable, but I know that you will help us.

All you want to know is are we doing good in school? You should go to Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School in Athens, Georgia to see how we are doing for yourself.

Thank you for letting me write this note to you.
I wouldn’t have done it without you, and I liked writing it.


Hayden Jones

P.S. I go to school at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School in Athens, Georgia. My principal is Dr. Dunne, my teacher is Karen Keller, and I’m going to tell everyone in my class and maybe my whole school about this letter and about being against the CRCT. I hope you come to visit us.

Five Strikes and I’m Already Out: Parenting for the CRCT (Georgia’s high-stakes test) Day 1 of 3

In family-school relations, high-stakes tests, NCLB, personal narratives on April 21, 2009 at 11:42 am

Parenting for the CRCT sucks. For weeks now, letters, papers, calendars, and other notes have come home in Hayden’s backpack about the Georgia state test that begins today for her first grade. We have had lists of things to do and not do including “stretching and breathing to help with stress test” – I mean, are you freaking kidding me? The kids wouldn’t BE stressed – and nor would their parents – if you hadn’t sent home a website address months ago and told the kids (and us in an official letter home) to “practice the CRCT every night.” Really?

So for literally, months, Hayden has been harping on me, “Mom, I have to get on the computer and practice for the CRCT today!”

“Sure, sweetie. We’ll do that. If not today, sometime next week,” (over my dead body, I mutter under my breath), “right now let’s go play outside.”

“Mom, look what I got today! We can play it right now,” she tells me as she pulls out a concentration game – of CRCT tips!

“Sure babe. Let’s have a snack first and we’ll get back to that,” I’m getting very good at being evasive…well, maybe all parents learn that on day one of their child’s life. I mean, what am I supposed to do, “Dammit! I wish that school would stop sending that stupid stuff home about the test. Look at the trees they’re killing! Look at the time they’re wasting! Look at the money they’re spending! Hayden, we’re not going to partake in this crazy game any more. I’m pulling you out tomorrow babe. Where will you go to school? I don’t know because EVERYONE has lost their minds! I’ll keep you in this house until you are old enough to go to college. No. Forget that. Everyone at colleges have lost their minds too!” (this from a college professor of course).

Finally she corners me.

“Mom. We gotta play this game. Now!” Oh God. She’s turned into a CRCT robot. An angry one.

“Alright sweetie. Let’s see that.” The sweetness is killing me. I’m ready to go on a rampage.

And we play the game. I refuse to even read the cards “Get me to school on time” – and play concentration focusing on the silly pictures on the cards.

We tie.

“Great! That was fun. Let’s get the chess game out and see how you’re thinking today,” and we play chess.

We never did look at that website.

Finally the week is here. First graders only have about 1 hour a day for three days (today, tomorrow, and Thursday), but they know the older kids go at it all week.

We haven’t made it to the grocery store and figuring out something for dinner before I go to a parents’ meeting about Hayden’s upcoming dance recital is impossible.We don’t even have what we need to make grilled cheese. Casey looks at me and mouths, “McDonald’s?”

Oh man. Strike one. I’m sure the CRCT police do NOT recommend McDonald’s for dinner the night before the test.


Then I head off to a meeting and Casey and Hayden eat and head to bed.

12:00 midnight: footsteps in the hallway.

Oh man. Strike two.

“Mommy? I have a cramp in my leg. It hurts really bad.”

I have a cramp in my head, put there by legislators and test makers and test preparation materials creators, and district superintendents, and principals, and…

“Come here honey. I’ll rub it.”

12:20: still rubbing.

12:40: still rubbing.

12:50: still rubbing.

“Mommy. Can you just lay down with me?”

1:00: Hayden’s bed.

This can’t be in the CRCT plan.

Wait – is this CUSTOM MADE by the CRCT plan? Is it possible Hayden is waking up and having cramps because of the test? (my grandmother’s voice comes to mind, “So help me God…”)

2:00: Back to my own bed.

2:40: “Mommy?”

Strike Three.

“I’ll come lay down with you,” Casey says and heads to Hayden’s bedroom.

“I’m afraid you guys are gonna leave me,” Hayden says.

Really? She has not said this before. Is this horrible insecurity brought on by the SUPER-SIZE-TEST-ANXIETY-STARTING-AT-SEVEN-YEARS-OLD trick in school?

(Here comes my grandma again, “So help me God…”)

3:15: Quiet. And I’m thinking about not sending her to school, taking a sign and protesting at the school entrance, withdrawing her from school, screaming at the top of my lungs. But no, that would get me Strike Four because surely Hayden will wake up.

6:15: Casey gets Hayden out of bed and dressed. I hear them but I’m exhausted.

6:30: “Bye honey. Get up,” he tells me – just like every other day. 6:30 is my shift – her bus comes at 7:00 am.

7:00: “Mo-om! You need to come downstairs.”

Shit! That must be Strike Four. I overslept? OMG!

“Honey, did the bus come yet?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Okay, let’s brush your hair real quick. Here. Have another bite of this banana, and I’ll feed you the rest of the waffles”

We rush around like crazy – shoes on, hair brushed (sort of), bookbag, lunch box, and I have the toothbrush in hand when the bus pulls up (lucky us – it comes to the door), and she runs out without brushing her teeth.

Strike Five.

“Love you baby. Do a great job today and have fun!”


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