Book by Dr. Seuss takes up high-stakes testing
by Keith Weissglass
"All schools for miles and miles around
Must take a special test,
To see who's learning such and such -
To see which school's the best.
If our small school does not do well,
Then it will be torn down,
And you will have to go to school
In dreary Flobbertown."
Another school threatened with the consequences of not making "adequate yearly progress"? Actually these words of a fictional school principal introduce the plot climax of a 1998 children's book based on a partial manuscript by the late Dr. Seuss.
Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! tells the story of an unorthodox, exciting school. In the colorful book, written in rhyme and brimming with collages, a student begins by describing the unusual subjects taught in class. Listening and laughing are among the lessons, as is "how to tell a cactus from a cow."
The reader also gets a glimpse at Diffendoofer's zany staff, such as Miss Loon, the librarian, who yells "Louder!" when the students are reading too quietly. Miss Bonkers, though, is the student's favorite, since she is "different-er than the rest."
The threat of losing their school, however, brings the fun to a halt. The mopey principal, Mr. Lowe, tells students they must do well on a standardized test, or be sent to Flobbertown, where everyone is the same: "they sing one song, they never dance."
Fortunately, students get the highest score despite - or because of - their quirky, creative education. At Diffendoofer School, students have learned how to think. The school is saved and returns to its unusual routine.
The story was based on drawings by Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel) before his death in 1991 and completed by renowned children's poet Jack Prelutsky and illustrator Lane Smith. The drama and tension of a high-stakes test will ring true to many children and educators in our schools. Hopefully so too will the message that school can be engaging and that a creative curriculum can lead to academic success.
Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! Written by Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky; illustrated by Lane Smith. Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, 1998.