‘Diplomas Aren’t Bulletproof’

St. Louis TFA’s Brittany Packnett on Ferguson, the *belief gap* and the need for disruptive change that’s actually, well, disruptive…

image1EduShyster: I first heard about you last summer when I read something you wrote called Education Didn’t Save Mike Brown. I can’t help but wonder how that piece would have come across if someone else had written it – say me.

Brittany Packnett: There is always an importance to the messenger, and maybe you’re right that I was able to get away with saying that as an African-American and a native St. Louisan. I wrote that piece because I had a realization that this thing that I have dedicated my life to, and that so many people before me made their life’s work, was not enough to save Mike. That his diploma was not bulletproof. He was doing so many of the things we asked him to do—he persisted through high school and graduated, he was headed to a vocational program and making sure that he was doing something with his life to be a productive member of society. He wasn’t saved by those things. When I realized that, that was the moment when I understood that the role of those of us in the work of educational equity has to be greater than just what happens to kids in the classroom.  Continue reading →

Hands Up, Don’t Test

Jesse Hagopian says protests against police and high-stakes testing have more in common than you think…

Members of the Black Student Union at Seattle's Garfield High led a walkout in

Members of the Black Student Union at Seattle’s Garfield High lead a walkout to protest police violence and racism.

EduShyster: You happened to be in Boston recently giving a talk about the new uprising against high-stakes testing on the same night that thousands of people here were protesting police violence and institutional racism. Here’s the people’s mic—explain how the two causes are related. 

Jesse HagopianIf I could have, I would have moved the talk to the protest to connect the issues. I would have said that the purpose of education is to empower young people to help solve problems in their community and their society. The purpose of standardized testing is to learn how to eliminate wrong answer choices rather than how to critically think or organize with people around you or collaborate on issues you care about. These tests are disempowering kids from the skills they really need to solve the big problems that our society and kids themselves are facing—like rampant police brutality and police terror. What’s the point of making our kids college and career ready if they can be shot down in the street and there’s no justice? You look at how testing and the preparation for testing now monopolizes class time—that is the American school system. If our schools emphasized rote memorization and dumbing down, that would be unfortunate. But the problem goes so far beyond that. We face huge problems as a society: mass incarceration, endless wars, income inequality. Our education system has to be about empowering students to solve those problems.  Continue reading →