Educators provide first-hand account of how destructive ed reforms hurt students

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Photo: Seattle educator Jesse Hagopian at CBC Foundation 43rd Annual Legislative Conference

by Brian Washington

Jesse Hagopian spent the first three years of his teaching career in the District of Columbia—working with fifth-graders at an elementary school in the Southeast. He recently returned to the nation’s capital to, once again, put his knowledge as an educator to good use—this time giving members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and those attending its Annual Legislative Conference, a lesson about the impact of destructive education reform policies—like high-stakes testing—on children.

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“There is a study that just came out that shows high-stakes testing is leading to higher incarceration rates,” said Hagopian, who now teaches World History and American Government at a high school in Seattle, Wash. “Policy makers are just pushing it more and more, and it’s having a destructive impact on our students.”

Hagopian, who recently joined forces with students, parents and other educators in Seattle to take a stand against harmful standardized tests, was one of the featured panelists in a discussion examining the negative impact of the tests and parent trigger laws and how school community partnerships can positively impact learning.

Public education was front and center at this year’s conference, which took place last week from September 18-21 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. It provided an opportunity for educators to shared their insights on discussions focusing on gun violence, recruiting more African-American men to the teaching profession, and STEM education.

Hagopian was joined on his panel by LaNita Dominque, an educator from Adelanto, Calif., who talked about how a private company, Parent Revolution, divided her community and sold parents a bunch of false promises to get them to take advantage of the state’s parent trigger law. The move ended up being harmful to students and the entire community. Dominque is featured in the video below that tells Adelanto’s story.

Parents in Adelanto, Calif., discovered Parent Revolution’s true intentions too late. This video tells their story.

Hagopian believes the presence of educators added value to the conference. He says his main goal was to make clear that when we make public education about filling in a bubble, we miss so many of the skills our students possess.

“We have an economic collapse that has left too many jobless. We have mass incarceration, endless wars, and climate change is threatening the future of humanity,” said Hagopian. “None of those problems can be solved by ‘bubbling’ A, B, C. or D. We need to cultivate critical thinking, collaboration, civic courage, and imagination in the classroom to tackle those real world problems.”

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Reader Comments

  1. Jesse is a Teach For America alum. I know TFA is controversial, but this alum seems to understand the deeper issues of public education that other TFA alum struggle with.

    I hope there are more TFA alum who can follow his lead. I do think TFA can actually contribute to public ed in positive ways, but they need to examine themselves, as Camika Royal, another TFA alum, has shared publicly.

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