Sunday, April 5, 2020

Book Review: Adequate Yearly Progress, by Roxanna Elden

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Mr. Hernandez.” In the doorway stood Hernan’s least-favorite assistant principal, Mr. Scamphers. He was giving Hernan the look one might give a child who had indeed put someone’s eye out in a game he’d warned them would only be fun until someone got hurt. “You are out of compliance with the Curriculum Standard of the Day Achievement Initiative.”

“We’re working on the scientific method,” said Hernan, pointing to the board. “Isn’t that the standard?”

“The standard is to be written on the board in its entirety, Mr. Hernandez, as per this morning’s announcement.”

“Sorry.” But then, since Hernan wasn’t actually sorry, he added, “It’s just that we were already in the middle of the lesson when that announcement came on.”

“Well, I’ll certainly make a note of that.” Scamphers scribbled on his clipboard.

Working in a school, I see some of the teaching guidelines and buzzwords in behind-the-scenes emails. I’m also privy to some of the unexpected student behaviors (good and bad). I’m not a teacher though, and hearing the full brunt of some expectations and experiences in this book may have made me a bit glad of that.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Adequate Yearly Progress, by Roxanna Elden
Each new school year brings familiar challenges to Brae Hill Valley, a struggling high school in one the biggest cities in Texas. But the teachers also face plenty of personal challenges and this year, they may finally spill over into the classroom.

English teacher Lena Wright, a spoken-word poet, can never seem to truly connect with her students. Hernan D. Hernandez is confident in front of his biology classes, but tongue-tied around the woman he most wants to impress. Down the hall, math teacher Maybelline Galang focuses on the numbers as she struggles to parent her daughter, while Coach Ray hustles his troubled football team toward another winning season. Recording it all is idealistic second-year history teacher Kaytee Mahoney, whose anonymous blog gains new readers by the day as it drifts ever further from her in-class reality. And this year, a new superintendent is determined to leave his own mark on the school—even if that means shutting the whole place down.

While the teachers in this book mostly chose to work at a school with mostly disadvantaged children to make a difference, the year they get a famous educational consultant as their superintendent is the year their "making a difference" backfires for many of them. There had always been a degree of teaching-to-the-test and working with unmotivated students; now their "Believer Score" is paramount to their career success, because "Believers make Achievers."

All the inspirational stories, crazy acronyms, and metrics for diluting all of the teachers’ work into success scores and measurable results are laughable. My kids came running down the hall to see what I was laughing about when I came across the mention of the "starfish story." I’ve heard the story at multiple motivational seminars and sales trainings, which just goes to show how much their school district is turning into a number-generating, success-driven clearinghouse for their customers, I mean, students.

Overall, this book (the first novel by an author with other non-fiction educational texts) is an amusing satire, with a few too many relatable anecdotes to be funny all the time. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. I was pulling for most of the teachers (we didn’t know individual students as much), but most of their stereotypes were pretty clear. I’d recommend his book to most who work in the educational field, but remember to go into it as I believe it was intended – a funny satire.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley works in the school kitchen, when the school is open. She has enough casual teacher friends and overhears enough chit-chat to recognize that anything is indeed possible in a job working with children, who are largely unpredictable. She also blogs at


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