Today marks the start of Dr. Jesse Turner’s 400-mile “Walking Man” campaign in support of Justice Not Just Tests. The Connecticut educator is making a 40-day trek from his home in rural Connecticut to Washington, DC, where he will join the BadAss Teachers Congress and Save Our Schools Mock Trial in late July. Jesse will be walking and talking with individuals and groups across the five states, to increase awareness about the demoralizing affect of testing abuse and connecting the dots among different communities as he goes. Along the way, he will hold Walking Man Events – in homes, libraries, coffee shops, houses of worship, and on street corners — to gather evidence from parents, students, and teachers.
Walking with Jesse today is Dr. Michael Alfano, Dean of Education and Professional Studies at Central Connecticut State University, the oldest teacher preparation college in Connecticut and the sixth oldest in the nation.
Mike Alfano, a veteran, a father, and an educator, is the first of Jesse’s “guest walkers,” who will share their stories and hopes as the Connect the Dots tour progresses.
In addition, Jesse has invited those in other states to share their stories with him via email. He will highlight those stories as he walks and carry them with him in his advocacy work upon reaching DC.
Testing Abuse and the Legacy of Ethan Pratt Rediske
Dr. Turner is dedicating each day of the walk. Today he honors the memory of Ethan Pratt Rediske, a Florida youth who lived with severe disabilities and had talents and strengths that were not measured by any of the state’s standardized tests. His special circumstances were not recognized by authorities, however, and precious hours of his last days in hospice care were taken up in battling state testing requirements. The straw that broke the camel’s back for Ethan’s mother was hearing her son – who used a feeding tube and had never tasted solid food – asked a question about the taste of peaches.
When I first heard the Rediske’s story, third- or fourth-hand, my only thought was “why would parents in such a case not simply tell the school system to take a long walk on a short pier” – the only expression I could muster for this situation that is suitable for radio.
But I investigated a little and found that his parents could have ignored the exemption requirements and focused solely on their child’s needs. But this would have left Ethan’s special education teacher to be penalized. And the family did not want that to happen. Even after Ethan’s death, his parents continue to fight for recognition of students’ special needs and teacher evaluations that are not dependent on abusive testing of students. (Orlando Sentinel story, Huffington Post report, and background on Florida teacher evaluation.)
The Walking Man discussed his plans with the Education Town Hall on May 28 and will be providing updates as he travels. Jesse says he is walking “because someone has to tell them that children are more than test scores.”
You tell ’em, Jesse.
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