Diane\'s Blog

Stacy Haines

Ms. Ravitch,

Thanks so much for coming to Tucson to deliver your message, which I enthusiastically endorse.

I teach English at a high school in Tucson’s poorest neighborhood. We scored so low on the state-mandated test a few years ago, that we were in danger of being “restructured.” In numerous in-services, we were essentially told to “teach to the test,” which we willingly did, because we love what we do.

Then, I was given an Honors class (Alexis Huicochea, the reporter who wrote the article about your talk in the Arizona Daily Star was in that first class!) and I had an epiphany: why couldn’t I teach ALL of my classes as if they were Honors classes? So I did, and the kids responded. For the past couple of years, more than 90% of my low-income, dysfunctional, stressed-out, and absolutely wonderful students passed the state reading and writing exams (and many exceeded) on their first attempt. The district average was about 55% at the same time.

Why were they so successful? Because I didn’t teach to the test. I aimed my kids at Bloom’s highest levels (which I didn’t know at the time), and assumed that they could get there. And of course, they did — they are just as smart and driven as students at the best schools. I started incorporating AP prompts into my sophomore classes, and was not at all surprised to find that my students ate it up.

We need to challenge our students, not to reduce them to test-takers. College and the real world are looking for thinkers.

By the way, Alexis Huicochea graduated summa cum laude from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications in just three and a half years. But she’s no more amazing than so many other of our graduates, who are now teachers, psychologists, lawyers, etc.

Stacy Haines