Monthly Archives: October, 2014

Reviews Are In: “More Than a Score” is “Exciting,” “Exceptional,” “With arguments to win over even the most skeptical school reformer.”

Cover_MTaSThe reviews are rolling in for the book I had the privileged editing, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High Stakes Testing, from the most prestigious book industry trade journals and progressive news outlets, and I am simply overwhelmed by the early critical acclaim—because what starts as a book club discussion, can end in an education revolution to reclaim assessment from the “testocracy.”

The reviewers have taken notice of More Than a Score’s rousing calls to action from Diane Ravitch in the foreword and Alfie Kohn in the introduction, and of the penetrating analysis of the ideas our authentic assessment movement will need defeat the test-and-punish model from the afterward by Wayne Au. And my supreme delight is derived from seeing the critics realize what I have known since all the essays were first submitted to me by the many parent, student, teacher, and administrator contributors to the book: There is a new leadership emerging across the country, with stirring stories of personal courage, in defense of public education.

More Than a Score officially releases December 2nd, 2014. Please share these reviews with your educational community, invite the contributing authors to speak to your community on our book tour, and consider preordering More Than a Score to help inspire and plan the movement against high-stakes testing at your school.

Here, then, are some of the early reviews:

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review:

The eagerly engaged voices assembled here present an action plan to combat the increase in high-stakes standardized testing currently plaguing K–12 education…the focus is on doing rather than shouting, and each essay in this anthology is a blueprint for civic action….The contributors build on Hagopian’s optimism for the blooming of an “educational spring” and make this book exceptional.

 Truthout:

More Than a Score is an exciting book, filled with anger, passion and creative strategizing over ways to defeat standardized testing. It’s also a call to arms and a well-argued plea for educational equity and a thoughtful defense of public education, the teaching profession and student-centered learning.

Kirkus:

Essays, speeches and interviews…come from students, parents and government officials, providing a comprehensive guide to the pitfalls of standardized testing, with arguments to win over even the most skeptical school reformer.

Kenzo Shibata, for The Nation magazine:

Shibata named More Than a Score one of “5 Books to Build a Movement for Education Justice” and writes, “When reading about education reform (coded language for privatization), it is easy to fall into a deep, dark pit of despair…. More Than a Score collects narratives from teachers, parents, students, academics and elected union leaders describing the growing grassroots resistance to testing gone mad.”

Jia_Rally

Jia Lee, teacher in New York City’s Earth School, a founding member of Teachers of Conscience, and contributing author to “More Than a Score.”

Contributing authors to More Than a Score include: Wayne Au, Carol Burris, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Sarah Chambers, Mallory Clarke, Jeanette Deutermann, Alma Flor Ada, Rosie Frascella, Alexia Garcia, Emily Giles, Helen Gym, Nikhil Goyal, Jesse Hagopian, Brian Jones, Alfie Kohn, Amber Kudla, John Kuhn, Jia Lee, Karen Lewis, Malcolm London, Barbara Madeloni, Cauldierre McKay, Mark Naison, Monty Neill, Diane Ravitch, Aaron Regunberg, Mary Cathryn D. Ricker, Stephanie Rivera, Kirstin Roberts, Peggy Robertson, Falmata Seid, Tim Shea, Phyllis Tashlik, Dao X. Tran

“Let Us Graduate!”: Garfield High School walks out on budget cuts

GHS_Walkout2Seattle’s Garfield High School has once again moved into collective struggle!–and we may to find out today if one of us is to be displaced from the building or if the power of protest has kept us safe from the budget-cut ax for now.

The Seattle School District announced on Friday, October 17, that Garfield High School would be forced to cut and transfer one teacher in a core subject area by Friday, October 24—or come up with $92,000. But on Thursday October 23, almost the entire building emptied in a mass walkout of students and educators against the budget cuts and has so far convinced the district to delay the cut.

The morning of the walkout, one of my colleagues was in the middle of reading the list of grievances that the rebellious colonists proclaimed against the British in the Declaration of Independence. As he told it, the students didn’t yet grasp the world-historic nature of the defiant document and were slouching in their seats, somewhat uninterested. Then, a member of the Associated Student Body government burst in the room and began listing the grievances students had with the Seattle school district that was proposing to cut a classroom teacher of a core subject at Garfield. The ASB representative closed his remarks by urging the students to take action—much the way the Declaration of Independence concludes—by breaking the rules and walking out of school against the budget cuts. Upon the Paul Revere imitator’s exit, the class returned to the text of the Declaration with a new excitement and understanding of the importance of speaking truth to power.

Among the objections cited by students and teachers to cutting a core subject teacher is that it would leave 150 students without a class and threaten the graduation of many. This is unacceptable, especially as Garfield has met its enrollment projections.  The other schools that have been told they would be affected by the displacement of staff are Stevens and B.F. Day elementary schools, Denny International and Madison middle schools and Hazel Wolf K-8.  Earlier this year another school, Gatewood Elementary, was told they would have to lose a teacher but the District gave them the option of raising $90,000 within one week to keep the teacher.  The Gatewood PTSA was able to raise the money in a week and staved off the displacement of the teacher.  While I am glad Gatewood was able to keep its teacher, it is simply unacceptable that schools with more wealthy PTSA’s can keep their teaching staff intact, while the res of the schools must face continual turnover.  We must once and for all end the fiction of “separate but equal” schooling, especially when it comes to funding and resources.

GHSWalkout_1At 1:50pm last Thursday, members of the award-winning Garfield High School drum-line announced the walkout with their signature hypnotic snare drum polyrhythms and led a mass exodus out of the building. Almost the entire school emptied and hundreds assembled on the front steps, students calling, “Let us graduate,” with teachers responding, “Let us educate.” Student body President Harald Hyllseth grabbed a bullhorn and declared, “If the motto of the Seattle Public Schools is truly, ‘Every Student, Every Classroom, Everyday,’ they won’t take a teacher away from us!” Garfield History teacher Hersch Mandelman addressed the crowd saying, “You students do not yet have the right to vote…but you do have the right to a voice!” School Board Director Sue Peters, also a Garfield High School parent, also addressed the crowd, saying she had talked with Superintendent Nyland and encouraged him to review the numbers and to pay to keep the teacher with money from the district’s rainy day fund–which totals millions of dollars. As well, a solidarity statement was read, sent from many faculty at Seattle’s Rainier Beach, which stated in part:

To The Students and Staff of Garfield High School,

The teachers at Rainier Beach High School stand by you as you take a stand against unfair cuts that will cancel much needed classes and resources for your students. We know how it feels to be understaffed and under-resourced and expected to meet all of the needs of all of our students.  It puts us in an impossible position and the students ultimately end up losing the most…An injury to one is an injury to all.

This isn’t he first time Garfield has had a major walkout. The last time was in 2011 when hundreds of students walked out of school in opposition to the announcement that the state would cut $2 billion from healthcare and education. They marched to city hall and demanded a meeting with the mayor, who appeared and praised their initiative. The students received national attention for their efforts, even getting their picture in the New York Times. Best of all, only weeks after they organized a second city-wide mass student walkout, the Washington State Supreme Court—under considerable pressure from public education advocates around the state—ruled that the state legislature was in violation of the Constitution and would need to increase funding to education with billions of more dollars.  Unfortunately, the legislature continues to violate our state Constitution, prompting an unprecedented “contempt of court” order by our state Supreme Court earlier this year.

We live in the wealthiest country on earth. Seattle is one of the wealthiest regions in nation, with multi-billion dollar companies—such as Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Boeing–dotting our skyline.  Cutting teachers nine weeks into the school year for lack of funds is outrageous.  Billionaires should not be allowed to hoard their wealth at the expense of our children.  Garfield is once again proving the great escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass right:

The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. … If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

Walkout!: Seattle’s Garfield High School Students and Faculty Pledge Walkout on 10/23 Against Budget Cuts

GarfieldStudentWalkout_mh077059-600x400

Garfield students walkout out against the $2 billion state budget cuts to health and education in 2011. Just weeks after their mass walkout, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the legislature was in violation of the state Constitution and ordered it to fully fund education.

Send your statements of solidarity today!

Seattle’s Garfield High School (where I graduated from and now teach history) has once again united the students, parents, and educators in common struggle.  Last Friday it was announced that our school had until the following Friday, October 24th, to raise $92,000 or else one of the teachers in a core subject area would be displaced.  We still don’t know which of us will be targeted for displacement, but we do know the pain of this cut will be severe.  As the joint letter to the superintendent from the Garfield staff and PTSA states, “One hundred and fifty students will have no place to go for one period each day, which will inevitably lead to greater class disruptions, absences, and truancy. One hundred and fifty students may not graduate on time.”

What makes this teacher displacement so outrageous is that the school district won’t explain why it is happening–as this King 5 News report makes clear.  It is a common disruptive practice of the school district to displace staff at a school if that school does not meet its enrollment projections, however Garfield has exceeded our enrollment projections.  What’s worse, the school district is sitting on tens of millions of dollars in their “rainy day” fund, yet is willing to throw our school into chaos over $92,000.

The students at Garfield were the first to raise their voice against this injustice, pledging to walkout of school to stop the district from threatening their teachers.  Once the Garfield teachers found out, they moved quickly to organize their own walkout (Send me your letter of solidarity to be read at the rally).  The PTSA the voted unanimously to support the walkout and united the whole school in this struggle.  On Thursday, October 23rd at 1:50 pm, Garfield High School will empty–to symbolize the impact it will have on 150 students–and the students will get a hands-on civics lesson about organizing against injustice.

Here then is the press release:

Garfield High School Walkout on 10/23 Over Late Budget Cuts | Walkout at 1:50 pm | 150 Students Affected

Seattle WA, October 22, 2014 – Garfield High School teachers pledged to join a student walkout over the cut of a yet to be specified core subject teacher, in the 9th week into the school year, which will impact 150 student schedules. The walkout is scheduled for 1:50 pm–30 minutes before the end of the school day–on Thursday, October 23. The Garfield High School PTSA and ASG voted to support these actions.

Teachers were shocked, saddened and bewildered to hear this news as Garfield exceeded its projected enrollment this year. The Garfield faculty authorized a letter to the Superintendent and the School Board, outlining the impact of the cut this far into the school year (see the letter below). Teachers are especially concerned about the impact on students’ ability to graduate on time. It is not yet known which core teacher will be cut and this has thrown the entire Garfield community into fear at a time when we should be focusing on how to best support all of our students.

The timing of the walkout, 1:50 pm, symbolizes the impact of cutting one core teacher at this late date. Core classes filled to a capacity of 30 students total 150 students per full-time teacher. This means that 150 students will have holes in their schedules during the day–roughly 10% of the student body.

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Restore Recess: A Movement is Born

Sign the Save Recess Petition today!Seattle Schools: Save Recess!

You have heard about Seattle’s fight for a $15 minimum wage, or the teachers who organized a mass boycott of the MAP test.  But you might not be aware of the newest movement–organized for one of the most basic human rights–that was recently ignited in the emerald city: The struggle for the right to play.

Parents and educators across Seattle are taking action to defend their children’s right to ample time for recess and lunch.  Parents and students at Whittier Elementary school set this movement in motion when they voiced objection to the school reducing lunch and recess time from 40 minutes to half an hour–gaining important local TV and media attention.  Parents at Leschi Elementary soon launched an online petition that has gathered nearly a thousand signatures in a few short days.  Now there is a city-wide organization of parents, students, and teachers called, “Lunch and Recess Matter.”  Lunch and Recess Matter is organizing a rally at the Seattle School District headquarters before the November 5th school board meeting (If you have a message of solidarity, relevant research, or attend a school with an important recess story, please contact me).

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an editorial for the Seattle Times, with the headline, “Schools Need to Learn the Importance of Recess” where I pointed out preparation for high-stakes exams is leaving little time for students to solve problems on the playground.  Now there are over a dozen schools in the district with less than 20 minuets of recess time.  I also pointed to the fact that the fastest shrinking recesses are in school the serve predominantly low-income and students of color. I could have never known that it would contribute so quickly to such vibrant organization across the school district.  All the research backs up this nascent movement in Seattle for recess, including findings by the American Academy of Pediatrics that “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.”

It is now clear that parents and educators are no longer willing to see their children’s education and health be degraded through the gradual elimination of recess.  It’s time for the Seattle School District–and districts across the nation–to listen to the research, the parents, the students, and the educators: restore recess now!

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Jesse Hagopian teaches history and co-advises the Black Student Union at Garfield High School. His forthcoming edited book “More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing” includes a foreword by Diane Ravitch, introduction by Alfie Kohn, and an Afterward by Wayne Au (Haymarket, December).

Play Over Test Prep–My op-ed in the Seattle Times

Fifth graders Jordan Gregorcyk-Landrey, top, and Nicole Mut, bottom, play during recess at Edgar Allan Poe Elementary Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in Houston. Parents are lobbying the Houston school board to make 30 minutes of daily recess mandatory in elementary schools. The new Poe Elementary principal agreed that unstructured play time was important for students. Photo: Cody Duty, Houston Chronicle / © 2011 Houston Chronicle“Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.”

– Plato

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” –  Mr. Rogers

The Seattle Times published my op-ed today on how the Seattle Public Schools are following a national trend in the reduction of recess time and the increase of time spent on preparing for standardized tests.  I also point to a recent study that shows it is more often Seattle schools which serve predominantly students of color that have reduced recess, despite the overwhelming research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (and many others) that recess contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.  Please read my op-ed at the Seattle Times, leave a comment, and share the article with your PTA, union, or community organization.  Our movement to reclaim education from corporate reformers must also reclaim the playground!

Jesse Hagopian Guest: Schools need to learn the importance of recess

Special to The Times

MY 5-year-old is bursting at the seams with excitement with the start of kindergarten this year.

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Jesse Hagopian teaches history and co-advises the Black Student Union at Garfield High School. His forthcoming edited book “More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing” includes a foreword by Diane Ravitch, introduction by Alfie Kohn, and Afterward by Wayne Au (Haymarket, December).

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