Saturday, April 2, 2016

Testing Has a Mascot

The first hurdle that the Big Standardized Test must clear is getting students to actually care about the Big Standardized Test. Some schools attack this hurdle with pep rallies to get the students all psyched up for the BS Test. Some of these involve badly rewritten pop songs, while on at least one Really Bad Day, it involved watching a man accidentally set himself on fire. 

But if your school is looking for a way to get the students all pumped up for the PARCC or PSSA or SOL (best/worst test name ever), you have one other option.

Meet YoJo. The name (according to its creator) means absolutely nothing (though I do now know that Yojo is a band, a piece of Asian holistic culture, and a place you do yoga. You're welcome.) You can scan the YoJo's website for lots of info, but I'll warn you right now-- the whole thing is done in Comic Sans.

YoJo (originally named Fuzzball, so a nonsense name is a step up) premiered in March of 2000. He's the brainchild of Bromley Lowe, whose previous work included a stint as the Baltimore Oriole Bird (Lowe's best friend is, apparently, the Philly Phanatic guy, and YoJo takes an annual trip to the Mascot Hall of Fame gathering which, yes, is a thing. You're welcome.). YoJo is also an indirect result of the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike; you can read Lowe's whole story here (in comic sans).

Lowe's wife was an Assistant Principal, and Lowe set out to bring the mascot art to school assemblies. And Lowe is not afraid to set his personal bar high. The website lists a mission of being the "#1 professional entertainer for elementary school age children" and names seven larger goals including making a living at this work and getting on tv. Did I mention that Lowe has been at this for sixteen years?

YoJo has four programs, including shows about reading, treating your body right, bullying and his absolutely most popular bit, a program entitled "Ace Your Test." Here's the promo for the PARCC (there are also versions for Virginia's SOL and Pennsylvania's PSSA).


 YoJo doesn't just get the excitement up and the nerves under control. YoJo also teaches test-specific test prep test-taking strategies. 

Yes. To all the testocrats who insist that the new improved BS Tests are impervious to test prep, here is a video of a man doing test prep while dressed in a large furry mascot costume. You're welcome.

YoJo has loads of accolades, including statements like this one from a Maryland principal: "When other principals ask how we got some of the highest test scores in the city, I tell them that YoJo is our secret." And if you check out YoJo's Facebook page, you'll see that the big blue testing mascot has been busy.

I stumbled across YoJo because someone was on line complaining about having a big blue muppet coming to their school to sell the PARCC. But after reading up on the guy, I came away with two conclusions.

One is that this is a guy who is just responding to a market that somebody else has created. I am not excited about living in a world where you can make a living going from school to school trying to help small children cope with the stupidities of BS Testing.

But I was also struck by Lowe's professionalism. This is a guy who has spent his adult life in big furry suits, networking with other suit wearers, and learning how to work a crowd and how best to do his thing. You can see him on a local MD tv show in 2010, talking about his work-- while he clearly enjoys his work, he is not just some case of arrested development goofing around (and in sixteen years he has never set himself on fire).

In short, this is a guy who actually approaches his work with children more seriously and professionally than the edu-amateurs who are busy trying to use BS Testing to break down and sell off the pieces of public education. Given the choice, I would rather have YoJo in my school than David Coleman. Though the idea of watching YoJo wrestle with Coleman and take him to the mat in a big mascot pratfall-- well, let's end with that image. You're welcome.


  1. While I might prefer to stick with John Oliver's testing monkey, I would be remiss to not mention that my 'innovative-first-in-the-nation' school district has had its own mascot for two or three years. Meet DJ (Duval Jacksonville, get it?)

  2. It has been a banner week for standardized testing propaganda. I have seen a company that specializes in making T-Shirts for schools with catchy slogans about standardized testing. And of course the testing pep rallies and motivational videos which have become pretty standard (pun intended) this time of year. The icing on the cake was this gem, a prayer for the state standardized test complete with Bible verses. We have truly lost our minds.

  3. I think you also should say "you're welcome" for revealing that the VA test is called SOL.

  4. Well, kudos to Lowe for at least doing what he loves, and finding a way to make money at it. That's a better life lesson than any BS test could give. Sigh.

  5. Hello. I might be a year late, but I wanted to thank you for this article about YoJo's test-prep assemblies. I am the creator of the show, Bromley Lowe, and I thought your article was very fair to what we do.

    Some of links above are now outdated since we redid YoJo's website, and yes, I have stopped the use of Comic Sans (You're welcome)

    I will say that going into THOUSANDS of elementary schools has given me quite a perspective on how schools handle their standardized testing. The thought of testing can bring out the most sour of looks from teachers and students, but I think we found a unique way to bring some much needed comic relief to this very controversial topic.

    Thank you,

    - Bromley