"You could be in my shoes in a few years meeting with the President”

Meeting the President of the United States is rare. Meeting the President to discuss what you are most passionate about is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Farida Mama (Massachusetts 2011) was granted this opportunity when she visited the White House in October to discuss standardized testing and to talk about her experiences as a classroom teacher.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
A headshot of a young African American woman with long braids, wearing a gold necklace, white blouse and black blazer.

As a Teaching Policy Fellow with Teach Plus, Farida has been sharing stories about her students with local and state leaders to bring the concerns of educators to the legislative table. Fellows write policy briefs and op-eds, lead professional development for other teachers, and give legislative testimony. Throughout the two year fellowship, they also mobilize large groups of teachers to bring about legislative changes that are informed by classroom perspectives.

Late one Friday, Farida received a call from Teach Plus informing her that she had been selected to fly to DC to meet with President Obama on Monday. She was stunned and humbled that she was asked to testify about her classroom and the impact of standardized testing on her students.

When given the floor to share her perspective, Farida first explained that she believed whole-heartedly in testing and accountability. As a teacher in a turn-around school, assessments have been essential for measuring student growth. Test scores brought urgency to the school when it was underperforming and enabled teachers and school leaders to make educated decisions. Farida described specific students in her classes that she was able to differentiate for and support because of the data gleaned from assessments.

However, testing also has the potential to detract from student learning. Farida wants her students to be thoughtful and motivated members of society and this cannot be measured through bubbles on an answer sheet. It should be limited, one of many measures, and worth the classroom time to take it. The meeting lasted nearly an hour due to the President’s engaging questions.

Her trip to the White House reaffirmed Farida’s belief in the power of sharing your story. The experience inspired her to start an extracurricular club, Young Leaders, designed to give students the space to tell their own stories and drive collective action in the community. She often reminds them, “You could be in my shoes in a few years meeting with the President”.