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School Testing Skewed in Song

I think they mean "skewered" in the headline. There IS a difference.

Order the CD: For song samples and the ability to order online with a credit card, go to


Or make out a check to Organic Arts
and mail to
P. O. Box 1776
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1776

$16.50 for one, $53 for five (This price includes postage.)

or write me. I have a supply and can send you one--or 10--or 50.

Susan Ohanian
P. O. Box 370
Charlotte, VT 05445

So many options for such a good cause. Please order your copy today.

The trio Dangerous Folk is wielding banjos and harmonicas in an assault on the testing craze they say is ruining public education.

Standardized tests aren't just a pain, the folk singers say -- or sing -- in a new CD called "No Child Left Behind? Bring Back the Joy." They maintain tests are wringing the joy out of school, making kids feel stupid and demoralizing teachers.

Retired Milwaukee educator-turned-singer Cap Lee of Dangerous Folk has lectured and written about the national testing obsession and the federal No Child Left Behind law fueling it.

But could the penny whistle be mightier than the pen?

At a 2003 Birmingham gathering of like-minded educators and parents, Lee started strumming a guitar while his cohorts made up anti-testing lyrics to familiar songs. He put the word out in the folk-singing community, and songwriters around the country sent in original material.

Billed as "educational songs of resistance," the CD that resulted includes this ditty:
No child left untested/Every student burning lead/Sweaty palms and headaches and stomachs filled with dread/Oh, the teachers all are worried/Always all are still/Joy has stepped outside the door/ 'cause someone broke its will.

Proceeds from the $15 discs (available at www.whole childreform.com) benefit World of Opportunity, a Birmingham program founded in 2000 by former public school teacher Steve Orel for kids not succeeding in traditional high school.

Orel said the songs capture his frustration with a system driven by politics and the bottom line. "It's a compassionate piece of work," Orel said of the CD.

The disc features the Harry Chapin song "Flowers Are Red," about how schools stomp out creativity. Some tracks take more direct aim, such as the new words set to "Skip to My Lou." (Lost school funding, what'll I do?/Lost school funding, what'll I do?)

A popular theme is the squeezing out of art and music. A 12-year-old vocal powerhouse named Lili Kryzanek, a student at an arts-themed public school in Minnesota, sings the bluesy title song, "No Child Left Behind."

Along came new laws/With no funding behind/Just focused on the test/Taking up classroom time/No Child Left Behind/Just a waste of their minds.

The disc isn't likely to turn up in the CD players of many Georgia education leaders, who have generally supported No Child Left Behind.
The purpose of the law is to force schools to take responsibility for educating all kids -- including those with disabilities and limited English -- by mandating standardized tests and publishing the results, broken down by subgroups.

However, some parents and teachers say the tests have taken over the classroom, driving instruction and replacing creativity with excessive drilling and test prep.

In the small Fairfield, N.Y., School District, Superintendent Bill Cala played the CD for his staff of 1,100 on the first day of school. An opponent of tests he says have become political tools, he especially liked the song "So Many Ways to be Smart."

He called the CD "a musical representation of the need to care for and teach children based on their talents, not what we as adults think is politically expedient."

— Patti Ghezzi
Atlanta Journal-Constitution


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