In NY, the Education Department just released test scores from recently aligned Common Core testing; “as expected” scores plummeted – What were the exact questions and passages? How were the scores formulated? How did the item analysis look? Yeah, um...I can’t answer that because that isn’t released and apparently may NEVER be released – just the scores. According to Webster, score is defined as “The number of points, goals, runs, etc., achieved in a game.” – THAT’S interesting because I believe this is just one more big, political game. Teachers seem to be the pawn in the game, the intended “target”, but in the end we’re hurting kids in a game they never agreed to play. If it weren’t a game then we’d be seeking out leading researchers and top notch teachers to help move toward rigor and improvement, we’d be pouring money from the lottery into education NOT into lobbying and political agendas, we’d be supporting schools, families, and kids NOT supporting a move to becoming a nationwide testing machine or privatization.
When I think about it, I have so many questions - how are my kids expected to succeed on this test when it’s written several grade levels above theirs and they can’t use the strategies I’ve taught them on how to get through challenging material? How are THEY supposed to feel safe when, without a word, I’ve promised to protect them and guide them through rigorous information, but they’re set up to fail on the gauntlet their being forced to run while I stand by and watch? Mandates or not, when it comes to my kids THEY are the ones that I’m there for – NOT to earn a score or approval or mention or rank. Growing up, I certainly wasn’t considered a “smart” kid by the teachers’ standards – I taught myself strategies that I often got in trouble for because it wasn’t how they taught me to do it – forget my ability to figure something out, what mattered most is that I didn’t do it their way, the “right” way, so there was no value on my work. I did what I had to do, enduring each day of NOT having my perfect paper hung on the board - school was NOT fun for me…A T A L L. I’ll never forget, as long as I live, my sixth grade Social Studies teacher passing back tests calling us by our last name and holding our papers, scores facing out, large numbers marked in felt tip blood-red pen. Yours truly had quite the lovely failing grade – humiliating doesn’t describe what he did to me that day and for many more to come – I was his target and became the target of my peers' finger pointing and giggling. This is EXACTLY what the state is doing to kids, teachers, parents, and schools across the state and they seem to be enjoying it as much as that teacher & classmates did. They’re telling kids that what they do each day, how hard they work to overcome struggles, the ingenuity they use to solve problems, the questions they come up with and inferences they make, their initiative to get up and come to school despite sadness or sickness doesn’t matter – one test, one snapshot, a block of seven hours on a test made by a for profit publishing company matters the most.
These scores have forced great teachers to question what they do – an amazing friend and I had a conversation recently and afterward I found myself
angry furious, not at her, but at what education has become - that
an incredible teacher was questioning herself, her classroom, and the
experiences and love she provides based on ludicrous testing practice. Here’s the thing – do we put more emphasis on
what happens every single day in a rich learning environment or into one
snapshot, grueling test? Do you care
more about the score on my teaching boards or my philosophy on educating
children and constantly pushing myself to be the best lead learner I can
be? Does it matter how well a child
fills in bubbles and completes a test or that a child can take on a real world problem,
persevere through it, and succeed? Do
you value kids working as a cooperative team, completing challenges beyond
expectation or that they can compete with each other for test scores? If that
one test (that you can’t see and you will never know what the questions were)
matters to you most, then I guess my classroom isn’t where your kid belongs.
I provide rigor every single day and push my kids to solve problems in ways they never imagined (and sometimes the way I ever imagined!) and I never have to do it with a high stakes test – as I’ve said before I’m not a paper pusher or a test giver, but I evaluate amazing minds every single day. When a child perseveres through a problem to the point of tears because she J U S T W O N ‘ T G I V E U P and suddenly out of nowhere she looks up at you with a grin bigger than a Cheshire cat, leaps out of her chair with hands extended, fists pumping, and cheers “YES!!!!” – THAT’S worth evaluating, THAT’S worthy of time in my classroom, and THAT’S something that seems the high stakes testing initiative and politicians will never understand.