Monthly Archives: July, 2013

What I couldn’t say to my son about Trayvon

Demonstrations were held in hundreds of cities across the country yesterday to demand justice for Trayvon Martin and the prosecution of his murderer, George Zimmerman.  I spoke at the rally in Seattle yesterday about Trayvon, the school-to-prison-pipeline, and how when my son asked me what had happened to Trayvon, I couldn’t find the words to explain.

If you have advice for speaking to preschool aged children about the Trayvon Martin murder, please share with me and my readers in the comment section for this post–I know a lot of us are trying to figure out how to talk about this with our children.

What I couldn’t say to my son about Trayvon

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Video Interview: Study Links High Stakes Testing to Higher Incarceration Rates

[Watch new interview on School-to-prison-pipeline]

A landmark study, The Effect of High School Exit Exams on Graduation, Employment, Wages and Incarceration, recently released by researchers Olesya Baker and Kevin Lang at the National Bureau of Economic Research links exit exams to high rates of incarceration.  The study found no positive impact of these tests in terms of employment or wages, but did find a 12.5% increase in incarceration rates for the students who do not pass the test. (For more information about the school-to-prison-pipeline and how to teach about it in the classroom, see the Rethinking Schools issue:

The Real News Network interviewed Kevin Lang and myself yesterday about this new study that exposes the machinery of the school-to-prision-pipeline. 

Check it out:



CNN’s “Inside Man” to Feature MAP Test Boycott (Sunday July 21, 7pm PT)

I am excited to announce that during the historic MAP test boycott in Seattle this year, Morgan Spurlock (who made the award wining film “Super Size Me”) sent a film crew from his new hit TV show on CNN, “Inside Man”,  to cover our story as part of a piece for his upcoming episode on education in America.

So mark your calendar, clear your schedule, or set your DVR:
This education episode of the documentary series “Inside Man” will be airing on CNN this Sunday, July 21st at 7pm Pacific Time, 10pm ET.
I hope that you’ll watch the show and I invite you to follow, engage and interact with Inside Man using hash tag #InsideManCNN and handle @InsideManCNN on Twitter and at  Let the producers know what you think of the show.
Here’s to the growing awareness of the abuses of standardized testing!

Teach Trayvon: What’s not in the Common Core & how to close the education gap

Want to close the so-called “achievement gap”?

This gap–better described as the opportunity gap–would quickly narrow if standards were added about analyzing the continuity of the American judicial system in excluding Black jurors and acquitting people who murder African Americans–from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin and beyond.  When you teach students about the major issues affecting their lives, and allow them to use the curriculum to help them solve these problems, you see education come alive for all students.  The fact that you can’t imagine a standard that addresses institutional racism in America  being added to the Common Core State Standards is a clear indication that they are not interested in truly raising the achievement of all.

This video of a speech I gave in the wake of Trayvon’s murder by George Zimmerman could serve as an opening lesson in the unit:

Followed by this lesson from Linda Christensen at Rethinking Schools, The Danger of a Single Story:

Trayvon, I promise you, while Zimmerman was acquitted after murdering you in cold blood, this fight for justice isn’t over!

Jesse in The Wall Street Journal—And what they left out!

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that looks at test security in the age of computerized standardized tests.  In the wake of a rash of standardized testing cheating scandals—think of D.C.’s “Erasure Gate” courtesy of Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Atlanta’s Superintendent Beverly Hall’s fill-in-the-right-bubble fraud—the Journal looks at the claim by high-tech companies and corporate education reformers that bringing the tests on-line is a solution to test cheating rings.

In the article, one of the quotes that the Journal attributes to me is, “The idea that [computers] would be the solution to cheating doesn’t make sense to me on the face of it.” 

I stand by this quote, however, the point I made that they didn’t include in the article is far more important: As long as high-stakes are attached to standardized tests—graduation for students, merit-pay and evaluation for teachers, corporate reformer brownie points and bonuses for superintendents, school closures, and the rest of it—there will always be someone who can’t resist erasing, or hacking into, wrong answers and changing them to right ones.

If we really want to get rid of mass cheating scandals, we should transform our assessment practices from a tool of reward and punishment into evaluations that seek to understand the many different intelligences of our students–beyond just their ability to pick an answer, often out of context, from a list of other choices.

Check out The Wall Street Journal Article and let me know what you think.


How Mass Civil Disobedience at a Seattle High School Catalyzed the ‘Education Spring’

ScraptheMAPNow that the school year is over, I have had some time to reflect on the meaning of the Seattle MAP test boycott victory.  My essay about the lessons of our struggle for quality assessment was published in Good magazine:


Seattle’s Garfield High School, home of the bulldogs, is used to winning.testing

Our jazz band is a perennial winner of the Essential Ellington national completion, our track and basketball team are perennial state contenders, our drumline just took the top place in the end of the year regional competition, and we have award-winning clubs such as Junior State of America debate team and the knowledge bowl. But this year we scored a whole different kind of victory: Not a high score on the test, but a defeat of the test itself. Not a win for a competition, but a victory for the solidarity of students, parents, and teachers in the struggle for authentic assessment over standardized testing…

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