school = tests

How/When did standardized tests become synonymous with public schooling? Why aren’t we doing more than critiquing and questioning them? What would that “more” look like? I am reminded of an exchange that occurred following Jay Lemke’s presentation during one of the plenary sessions at this year’s NCTEAR conference. Someone requested/challenged him to write an op-ed to the New York Times saying (in 500 words or less) the essence contained in the talk he had just given about transmedia franchises and transmedia semiotics found in adolescent’s worlds that are turning our understandings of literacy/ies inside out. Lemke talked about the complexity of meaning making in an age when story is not found in printed text alone; ““eating candy such as bertie botts (from Harry Potter),” he claimed, “is literacy if it is integrated into transmedia meaning effect.” Mimi Ito, in an earlier talk, shared several examples of amateur anime music videos (AMVs) that reflected the nuance and range of multimedia composition and storytelling that anime fans are engaged in, all the while challenging notions of literacy, composing, communication, plagiarism, homage, imagination, narrative, and learning. This post isn’t about lemke’s or ito’s talks, but rather about the role that they and others in the field of language and literacies studies might play in changing the tide of schooled literacy practices and policies, which have largely taken the form of rote learning, scripted and formulaic templates, and an unending sequence of tests and measures.

Today I came across the DiversityData Project currently ongoing at Harvard’s School of Public Health. From the website:
“The DiversityData project identifies metropolitan area indicators of diversity, opportunity, quality of life and health for various racial and ethnic population groups. This Website is now available to a wide variety of potential users interested in describing, profiling and ranking U.S. metros in terms of quality of life. The indicators provide a scorecard on diversity and opportunity, and allow researchers, policymakers and community advocates to compare metro areas and to help them advocate for policy action and social change.”

Among the indicators are education, crime, housing opportunities, and economic opportunities. The project has also issued its first report based on these data that focuses on the impact of urban schooling on children: Children Left Behind: How Metropolitan Areas Are Failing America's Children. The report includes findings about the best and worst metropolitan areas for children, broken down by race, and bases these assessments on a combination of factors. What struck me were a few lines near the very end of the report, in a section that offers suggestions for improvement based on “models that work” in the areas of 1) early childhood development; 2) housing choice, mobility, and neighborhood improvement; and 3) education. Of the latter, on page 37 of the report, they wrote the following:

“In order to reduce racial/ethnic educational achievement gaps, some innovative schools have adopted new approaches. One of the most influential school models is the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) for inner-city public schools, shown by independent evaluations to boost performance on standardized tests in multiple schools throughout the country. While observers warn that there is no single answer to the gulf dividing race and class, these programs appear to help by emphasizing strong principals with the power to remove unproductive teachers, extensive teacher training, team building, evaluation and retraining, and frequent testing.” (my emphasis)


how's that editorial coming along, jay??

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