Another big conversation that has come about in our grade level meetings is the stress and demands of testing that we all begin to feel this time of year. Of course, this becomes a national conversation as well, with all teachers feeling this way. I came across two important articles that I felt compelled to share that really put all this testing madness in perspective.
I know it is important. I lived the stress and madness for eight years as well. But I also know that these are kids–little kids–who are so much more than a test score, than this one test score that will not matter one iota in terms of their successes and failures in life. This was a hard realization for me to come to, but an important truth that helped me find the perspective in all of these that I so desperately needed. Never on a job application have I been required to list out my elementary, or even middle or high school, test scores. As a teacher, I had to come to the hard realization that the scores mattered more to me than them simply because of the pressure the educational system puts on its teachers.
I would prep for months in terms of content and themes to make it “fun” (like 9 1/2 hours of testing could ever be fun). Then when the time came, I stressed all day long as to what answers they were writing and wondering if they were remembering it all (of course they weren’t, I knew. There is no possible way to remember all K-5 Science content in a 3 1/2 hour test). Meanwhile, they completed the test, ran out the doors at 4:00, and enjoyed an evening of play in the Spring, not thinking about the test for one more second after they left school, or maybe even after they turned it in. Soon the testing window would close and school let out for the summer. I waited anxiously to see what the results would be. Did they? No. They went off to enjoy their summers, just as children should, knowing they were going on to the next grade level regardless of their score. Soon, fall would arrive with those children long gone and new little faces taking their places. Our scores would be revealed and no matter what was on the report the conversation was always the same–we did well, but we could have done more, we could have been better. It was never enough. And thus the cycle of stress began again, but now it was forced up0n a group of students I’d never had until this year and it was all based off a group of students I’d never teach again. There was simply no breaking the cycle and I, myself, had to take a step back and put it all in perspective for my own sanity and for the sake of being the teacher I knew I wanted to be, but often felt I couldn’t be.
I encourage you to read these articles and hope they help you find some perspective as well. Both allude to the testing we do as a form of child abuse, and in all honestly, I can’t say I disagree. I have highlighted my favorite quotes from both beneath each link.
Parent/teacher/administration perspective of testing: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2014/01/the-defiant-parents-testings-discontents.html?mobify=0
“Teachers and kids would spend limited time preparing for the tests. They would become accustomed to sitting quietly and working alone—a practice quite distinct from the collaboration that is typically encouraged in the school’s classrooms, where learners of differing abilities and strengths work side by side. Come the test days, kids and teachers would get through them, and then, once the tests were over, they would get on with the real work of education.”
Teacher perspective of testing: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/my-report-on-state-of-union.html?m=1
“This. This is what is also glaringly missing from our nation’s discussions about education: citizenship. Indeed, this is the reason our founders placed such a high value on education, not because they wanted to train their 5-year-olds for “tomorrow’s workforce,” but because we need educated citizens to participate in the hard work of self-government. This most important lesson will never be learned from testing, standardization, and fear.”