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New Milford Teacher's Novel Satirizes Readiness Testing

Christopher Ryan is stunned by the plot twist in his new book, "Genius High."
Christopher Ryan is stunned by the plot twist in his new book, "Genius High." Photo Credit: Christopher Ryan

NEW MILFORD, N.J. — The pressure that PARCC testing puts on his students gave Hackensack High School teacher Christopher Ryan of New Milford the perfect premise for his latest novel, “Genius High.”

“The reality is only one step away from a horror novel," he said, "so I took the step.”

The pressure of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing is so great that "it's not so far of a leap to believe that people would do anything to improve test scores," Ryan said, "and that's what 'Genius High' is about."

When high school students’ IQs in the young adult novel begin to mysteriously rise, administrators hire people to try to cover it up. A group of unaffected students band together to figure it out.

PARCC testing "isn't about improving the kids," Ryan said. "It's about a couple of rich guys wanting their way, wanting the last amount of money in America, which is public education money."

His work as a reporter in the Bronx during the “crack wars” in the late 1980s and early 1990s convinced Ryan to try and help youngsters.

“I saw hundreds of dead kids until I started feeling guilty about it,” he said. “I applied for the NYPD and was ready to go in a make a difference.”

Ryan was waiting to enter the next NYPD class when he got a call from a local schools superintendent who suggested a different path: He bet Ryan a steak at one of New York City's best restaurants that he'd forget trying to become a police officer if he tried teaching.

"I still owe him that steak because I took the teaching gig as a bet," he said. "Without realizing it, I walked into a building of living, breathing, vibrant students.

"Greatest rush I ever had."

Ryan next month plans to release another novel, "City of Pain," to complete a trilogy he began with "City of Woe" in 2011 and continued with "City of Sin" in 2013.

By pairing his teaching with writing, he said, he hopes to remind people that "this is where education lives -- in this building, in these hearts."

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