stephanie jones

Archive for May 20th, 2009|Daily archive page

How to Make School Not Suck #3 – Leave the state tests alone already!

In classism, high-stakes tests, identity, NCLB, teacher education resources on May 20, 2009 at 8:31 pm

#6 Stop going on and on about the state tests even AFTER they’re over! We already know the stupid tests have taken all the “real” education out of schools and they’ve taken attention away from real academic learning, inquiry, curiosity, democratic engagement, and authentic projects. But once they’re over, DROP IT! But noooooo, some schools can’t seem to do that. Many weeks after the tests were over and the scores were in, celebrations are held for the “highest scorers” and those who have “exceeded expectations” get public recognition, and some even certificates!  I mean, are you freaking kidding me??!! It’s not enough to torture kids for weeks or months prior to the test with test preparation, test cheers, pep rallies, homework, etc. etc. etc., but now the kids who didn’t simply “meet” expectations but “exceeded” them get recognized?! All this time you’ve been telling kids you just wanted them to do a good job – but you lied. You really wanted them to do better than most other kids – passing wasn’t enough – and you do this publicly??!!

Get off it already.

Around every corner of this problem is another problem.

I shake my head in disbelief.

You would think that some educators have never, ever, ever read a single article or book about the negative impact of high-stakes standardized tests, competition, extrinsic motivation, privileging some kids over others repeatedly, “shaming” kids through exclusion, etc. etc. etc.

Besides, it’s really clear here that you are saying to kids, “Really, all you matter to us is a number. We don’t give a damn about what your dreams are, what you hope you can accomplish in school, the questions you wonder about, or how hard you’re working. And we don’t care if you have made two years’ growth this year, or came in so strong already but seem to have made no progress. We just care about that little score you’re going to give us in the spring, and then we are going to use that score to reward or punish you after the tests are long over. And we’ll do so publicly. So you better do good, because just when you thought the trauma of taking the test was over, we’ll make you re-live that over and over. (smirk).”



How to Make School Not Suck #2 – Awards

In anti-bias teaching, classism, democracy, family-school relations, poverty, social class, teacher education resources on May 20, 2009 at 8:16 pm

#5 Stop singling out the same kids over and over for school awards. You know exactly the kind of celebrations I’m talking about: a very small number of well-dressed, submissive, overly-willing-to-please kids get all the recognition in a class-wide or even school-wide award ceremony. If the other kids are lucky, they might get their names called out, but then some sit there never having had the thrill of being publicly recognized for their gifts and talents. Do this: if you or your school gave out awards for the end of this year, ask yourself some tough questions: a) who were the kids that never got recognized? b) how many of those kids are from middle-class or wealthy families? c) how many receive free or reduced lunch? d) how many of those kids are white? African American? Multiracial? Latino? Asian American? e) how many of those kids have already had the privilege of “special programs” such as the gifted program? f) is there any evidence in your answers that you are, or your school is, perpetuating stereotypes and expectations for kids based on race and class?

If you know anything about how children build personal connections with school and develop motivation in school, then you’ll already know that the kids who never get recognized are the very ones who will decide to quit trying. When you reward everything they are NOT, and nothing that they ARE, you send very clear messages about whether they even belong in the school setting. Shame on anyone who does this.

And – we’re sending horrible messages to the kids getting all the recognition as they sit and watch their classmates’ eyes well up with tears and yell and lash out at students and teachers: You deserve praise and they don’t. And when they can see traces of racism and classism in those decisions (even if they can’t articulate it that way – my own daughter said, “all the kids who didn’t get an award were _____” – she knew), they can begin to adopt those same racist, classist beliefs about school and society at large.

And what about the parents of children who attend such events whose child never gets recognized? Well, they probably already hated school and you because they have read through this bullshit long ago. But you surely didn’t help things.

Every single child has something worth valuing publicly.


Recognize and reward the wonderful talents and gifts of every student and you will create a better world, starting in your classroom, school, and then beyond.

Stop repeatedly making some of your students Powerful and others Powerless in school settings. Rethinking awards is one place to start.

Besides, without knowing it, you might be publicly and proudly revealing the racist and classist practices that are already at play in your classroom or school, and surely, surely, no one would want to be caught in THAT situation.

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