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Gerald Bracey tributes


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    Jerry Bracey—equal opportunity critic

    by Juanita Doyon

    I've been sorting the history of my resistance to high-stakes testing lately. It's no surprise that every stack of papers contains Bracey articles, rotten apples, and emails. Today, I found a gemâ-my first personal introduction to Gerald Bracey the critic. It came in the form of an email, written by Dr. Bracey, forwarded to me by the colleague to whom it was written, the owner of a Washington State listserv fighting the state test. I had been a member of this listserv for about two months.

    Subj. worthless words

    Date: 8/10/00

    Can you get jedoyon to put a lid on it? No one else says so little so often. If you want to forward this, please feel free.

    I guess Jerry didn't appreciate my just-a-mom banter with the other moms on the list. If I recall correctly, I was going back and forth with homeschooling moms at the time, posting prolifically, as had become my internet nature.

    My reaction: I took a leave of absence from that particular listserv and wrote to Dr. Bracey to let him know his message had reached me. I had no idea at the time who I was writing toâthe great Gerald Bracey, Researcher of the Resistance! He, of course, wrote a pleasant message back, maybe having gained a tiny bit of respect for my boldness to contact him in the face of his chastisement.

    I'm not sure my style changed much in the other listservs Jerry and I met up in. I remember calling myself the "most frequent poster child" of the Assessment Reform Network on a few occasions. There, the "gabby moms" took it outside and formed a "bad girls" list so we didn't need to vent in public. Jerry and others we lovingly and secretly referred to as the "crotchety professors" did a wonderful job of educating us, bringing us up to speed on statistics and good and bad education policy and pedagogy, so we could speak intelligently to the media that began to call often.

    I sent Jerry a package of my "button up the tests" buttons. A few months later he wrote and asked if I could send him another red slashed "WASL" because the dog had used the original as a chew toy. That was Jerry! When I ran for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Bracey was one of my first supporters, and I was proud and honored to list him on my endorsement list. I had the good fortune to hear Jerry speak and work with him at Resistance workshops on several occasions.

    When Jerry moved to Washington last year, he knew he could rely on me to give him the real story behind testing policies and education politics of the state. I enjoyed our email conversations and was thrilled that Washington could now boast Gerald Bracey as a resident. Too soon, we lost our learned and outspoken colleague and friend. But I like to think Jerry is up there holding the gods accountable with the facts and telling them not to judge U.S. schools too harshly when they compare us internationally.

    Today, I framed a treasured picture of Gerald Bracey, Susan Ohanian, Sharon Schmidt, Sam Schmidt, and me, taken in Chicago in the spring of 2003. It will have a prominent place in my office and serve as a reminder that Dr. Bracey is watching me, prodding me to check my facts, pull no punches, and choose my words carefully so he never again has to tell me to âput a lid on it.â

    Juanita Doyon is the director of the nonprofit Parent Empowerment Network, author of Not With Our Kids You Don't!-- Ten Strategies to Save Our Schools, and proud to be one of the mouthy Room Mothers of the Resistance!

    — Juanita Doyon
    Parent Empowerment Network


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