Last year, Dohmann and his students made “Proficient and I Know It,” a takeoff on then-ubiquitous “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO. The year before, it was “Math and Reading,” a rewritten version of “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa.
This spring, Dohmann and three middle-schoolers collaborated on “Rock That CAS” to the tune of “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore.
“I’m gonna rock that CAS, only got 20 sharpened in my pocket,” raps one student, clutching 20 No. 2 pencils in his hand.
“Harvard wants me with what I got on that math section,” raps another.
“I scored ‘advanced’ on both, my brain’s incredible,” sings a third.
The video features dance scenes with dozens of Jefferson students and cameo appearances that include the school’s principal, wearing roller skates; Claribelle, the ghost rumored to live on Jefferson’s third floor; and Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
The music video premiered at a Jefferson pep rally last week. It was a hit.
“Everybody was congratulating us,” said William Harrell, 12, one of the three stars. “People were singing it in class.”
Music videos have become an unofficial D.C. CAS thing, produced by teachers at schools across the city each spring. This year, “Harlem Shake” was among the most popular songs to parody.
“However you can get a really positive culture around this experience, the better the end result is going to be,” Dohmann said. “That’s my motivation for doing this, taking that pressure away, getting everyone excited.”
Teachers say the pressure they feel to improve test scores inevitably affects students.
“Everyone’s uptight,” Carol Foster, who coordinates the arts-integration program at Savoy Elementary, said on the eve of testing Monday.
Savoy’s pep rally was a chance to let some of that pressure go. The crowd erupted in dance. Students sang for their classmates, pre-K youngsters offered messages of encouragement, and teachers donned tiger masks in honor of the school’s mascot.
“Scandal” star Kerry Washington, a George Washington University alumna, sent a good-luck video. When the children returned to their classrooms, they received orange T-shirts imprinted with a slogan similar to the Adidas shirts that players wore in the past NCAA basketball season: “Savoy Elementary School Tigers: Rise to the Occasion, April 2013.”
Principal Patrick Pope is trying to use the arts to transform Savoy, a school where poverty is pervasive and fewer than one-fifth of students are proficient in math and reading. It’s an effort that will be judged largely on the results of the D.C. CAS, this year and in the future.
“We know how smart you are,” Pope told his students. “We know how talented you are. We know how hard you’ve worked all year. Now is your chance to show it.”