New Album Features Anti-NCLB Songs
Susan Notes: Do you have your CD yet? We want you to sing along!
High-stakes testing, they push through/Herding students, teachers, too.
Inspiration for the album struck when Lee was visiting an alternative school in Birmingham, Ala., with other educators, parents, musicians and authors.
The group was brainstorming ways to raise money for the school when they launched into an impromptu jam session and discovered a theme: frustration with fallout from the federal No Child Left Behind law, which requires public schools to post annual standardized test-score gains in reading and math.
They recounted stories of schools eliminating music, art and recess to allow more time for the core academics covered on tests.
"Cutting out recess? It's insanity," Lee says. "It doesn't make any sense. It's like telling a teacher they can't have a break or a superintendent that they can't go to a conference.
"So what did they do in the '50s and '60s down in Birmingham? They sang. We thought, 'Why don't we do the same thing to protest [judgments of school quality] on a single standardized test?' Music is a great form of communication."
Lee roped in David H.B. Drake, a professional folk singer and friend from Milwaukee. They solicited lyrics from educators nationwide. They got nearly 40 submissions, some biting attacks on prominent politicians, others wistful recollections of a less-rigid time for public education.
In the end, they selected songs that challenged policy - not people.
"Look, passing laws and not funding them, and testing kids is not helping things," Drake says, speaking from a pay phone in Mercer, Wis. - the Loon Capital of the World! he points out - as he passes time before his next gig. "That's not how people learn. The way we look at it, we're giving voice to something that needs a voice."
Take track No. 3, "For Whom The Bell Curves":
What if Albert Einstein had never gone to school/'Cause he couldn't speak till he was 4 years old?
And from Track No. 6, "Test the Kids" (to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It"):
No Child Left Behind says test the kids/While teachers are maligned, test the kids.
For more information
Visit http://wholechildreform.com/pages/890692/index.html or http://susanohanian.org/woo.html.
Proceeds go to the World of Opportunity, an alternative school in Birmingham, Ala., that specializes in social justice and civil rights.
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