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The most damning truth about standardized tests is that they are a better indicator of a student’s zip code than a student’s aptitude. Wealthier, and predominantly whiter, districts score better on tests. Their scores do not reflect the intelligence of wealthier, and mostly white students when compared to those of lower-income students and students of color, but do reflect the advantages that wealthier children have – books in the home, parents with more time to read with them, private tutoring, access to test-prep agencies, high-quality health care, and access to good food, to name a few.

So writes teacher-activist Jesse Hagopian in his preface to the volume More Than a Score, the focus of a recent discussion at Teaching for Change Bookstore here in the District.

Hagopian’s preface continues:

As a [2013 Boston University study] reveals, the increases in the use of high-stakes standardized high school exit exams are linked to higher incarceration rates. Arne Duncan’s refusal to address the concerns raised by this study exposes the bankruptcy of testocractic policy.


The Fall, or Stumbling, of the Testocracy

At Tuesday night’s event, Hagopian described historic testing boycotts at his Seattle high school, the pushback and the triumph. The discussion also highlighted a prediction that, when the Opt Out and Black Lives Matter movements merge, “testocracy” will fall.

Meanwhile, some standardized testing is stumbling, if not exactly falling, under its own weight. Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, systemwide computer failures prevented annual testing in Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota. The problem occurred when many students from the three states attempted to log into a third-party server. Education Week’s State Ed Watch describes the interruption in North Dakota as temporary. The Reno Gazette said that Nevada testing is halted for now but expected to continue next week. Montana TV (KPAX in Missoula and KRTV in Great Falls) reports, however, that previously required testing will now be optional in Montana.

Returning to More Than a Score, I note that several guests of the Education Town Hall contributed to the collection, including Mark Naison, Fordham University professor and co-founder of BadAss Teachers Association, and Monty Neill, of Fair Test.

A Special Book Collection Closes

Picking up some discount titles on education reform
Picking up some discount titles on education reform

I also add that I picked up my copy of More Than a Score at the Teaching for Change Bookstore – now in the process of shutting down after ten years.

The 25-year-old nonprofit Teaching for Change will continue to support social justice in the classroom. And a new bookshop is expected to open in the 14th Street Busboys and Poets location. But there are only a few days left to visit the current Teaching for Change Bookstore and its special collection.

The store and its commitment to presenting materials with diverse characters and authors was highlighted here last June.

Here’s a link to the store’s memory blog: Read what the store has meant to others and to add your own thoughts.

From We Act Radio and the Education Town Hall:


Thank you, Teaching for Change, for creating a little corner of the planet where diverse books were celebrated and where parents and teachers could find – and talk to others about – materials to expand their students’ universes.

We, along with many residents and visitors to the District, will miss your bookstore.