Tasks for the 2011-2012 School Year

There are two primary tasks for the 2011-2012 school year: 1) responding to high stakes testing and 2) facilitating more inclusive school environments.

Responding to High Stakes Testing

Recently, many urban principals have kicked off the school year with celebrations of test score gains and the practices that led to them. The celebrations are understandable given the immense pressure to raise standardized test scores and the sad state of American public education. The fact is that raising scores may get some schools to “safe harbor” or minimize the pressure from local districts, but what are we really celebrating?

Several questions arise as we celebrate: Are short term number gains worth what is being sacrificed? Is better teaching happening or is better teaching to the test taking place? When we narrow the curriculum to teach to the test, are students really learning anything that will be of value to themselves, their communities, or the world 20 years from now?  Is the end goal of our educational mission higher test scores or something much greater? Are short term test score gains worth the cost we will pay when we are faced with a generation of people that have limited critical thinking and creative problem solving skills?

With respect to the rabid high stakes testing sensation still gripping public schools, here are a few suggestions for parents and students to get involved:

Parents can get informed at: FairTest

Parents should also check out: Parents Across America for information about improving schools and responding to NCLB.

Students can join: The Bartleby Project

Facilitating More Inclusive School Environments

As the new school year begins we have an opportunity to facilitate more inclusive and compassionate classroom environments. While the emotional trauma of being subjected to teasing and bullying is well established, recent studies have indicated that high achieving students of color, particularly Blacks and Latinos also suffer academically from exposure to bullying.

This year No Name Calling Week is January 23-27, 2012. Encourage your school to participate or participate in your own classroom by using the classroom resources and sharing the book The Misfits by James Howe with your students. Students can also take part in a national Creative Expression Contest where they can raise awareness about teasing and bullying.

During the 2004-2005 school year I taught sixth grade gifted English Language Learners at a public middle school in East Los Angeles; my students participated in the inaugural No Name Calling Creative Expression Contest. My English class was very proud when Jessica Carrillo won second prize (view press release here). Jessica’s original story is an inspiration to upcoming authors and this year she should be starting her first year of college. You can view her story below:

Name Calling Hurts by Jessica Carrillo

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