High Stakes

Poverty, Testing, and Failure in American Schools

By (author) Dale D. Johnson, Bonnie Johnson

Publication date:

13 October 2005

Length of book:

240 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9780742535312

High Stakes brings the voices of students and teachers to our national debates over school accountability and educational reform. Recounting the experiences of two classrooms during one academic year, the book offers a critical exploration of excessive state-mandated monitoring, high-stakes testing pressures, and inequities in public school funding that impede the instructional work of teachers, especially those who serve children of poorer families.

Redbud Elementary has no playground, no library, no hot water, and no art classes. Ninety-five percent of the children qualify for a free breakfast or lunch. Most of the children live with a single parent or relative; some live in homes without electricity, running water, or floors.

The authors, who moved from comfortable college professor positions to teach in a poor school district, offer an eye-opening examination of the daily school lives of children who live in crushing poverty and teachers who work under extraordinary stress. Their tale is at times heartbreaking, heartwarming, or infuriating. They explain why many recent educational reforms are off track and argue for more meaningful reforms that can empower teachers and students and better meet the challenges of our communities and the national interest.

This second edition updates the story of Redbud Elementary and takes a hard look at the national expansion of accountability from preschool through college. A new final chapter focuses on the national effects of the No Child Left Behind Act as well as states' experiences with mandates and the role of big business in the testing process. This edition concludes with coverage of the so-called silent professionals and opposition to high-stakes testing, and a consideration of the future prospects for American education.
I know of no other book that so clearly shows how our fascination with testing, standards, and accountability fails miserably to deal with the daily realities of education and poverty in this country. High States provides a richly detailed picture of these realities and deserves to be read by anyone concerned with the educational lives of poor children.