Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

This is a story about elementary school students, but it's not about the latest standardized test scores or teacher evaluations. 

Oh no, dear reader, this is a story about zombie hamsters and stars named Twinkle, and lions and tigers and cherillas (that's a mix between a cheetah and a gorilla, in case you didn't know), oh my!

In short, this is a story about pure imagination.  

heritage exploratory academy kids and project
Heritage Exploratory Academy

We've written here about some new thinking on "grit" and how to set a kid up to have enough to make a difference in their future success. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

 The big test is coming. 

"I don’t even want to take it, says Musa, a third grader at Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids. "I'm not a big fan of tests."

Musa carries himself like an adult: hands casually in his pockets, shoulders back.  He stands on the edge of a cracked asphalt basketball court.

It’s picture day at Congress, and Musa has on a red t-shirt with black sleeves. He says it’s for special occasions, only.  

On the shirt, the words, “Destined for greatness," are laid out across Musa's chest.

"Did you pick it?" I ask him about the shirt.

"Yeah," he says.

"Why did you like what it says?" I ask.

"Because I didn’t want it to be something bad," he said. "So I put ‘Destined for Greatness,’ so people think I’m good, not bad."

user alamosbasement / flickr

Some of the leading figures in education around the state and the nation got together on our airwaves to talk about high stakes testing today.

Jennifer White guided conversation between an illustrious group that included Diane Ravitch, Dan Varner from Excellent Schools Detroit, Amber Arellano from Education Trust Midwest, researcher and University of Michigan professor Brian Jacob, Columbia University professor and researcher Valerie Purdie Vaughns, New York City public school principal Julie Zuckerman, education historian Tracy Steffes, and our own Dustin Dwyer

The difference between a high-stakes test and just a run of the mill standardized test is of course that a high stakes test has consequences attached to it. These consequences could be for the student (exams like the ACT and the SAT are certainly high stakes for kids who want to go to college). But since No Child Left Behind it is teachers and schools that are more likely to feel the consequences of students not performing well on tests.