… And there’s a lot of tension in the air. At least at my school, teachers are constantly talking about standards and data and rigor. Everyone is stressed out! I needed to take a break from the testing madness and get some thoughts out about why I do what I do and who exactly I do it for.
I teach in an urban school district that is consistently under-performing. (Chicago Public Schools famously reported that in 2006, only 6% of its incoming freshmen would graduate from college. To learn more, you can read this original article from the Chicago Tribune.) I am a strong believer in using quantitative data to inform my teaching, and I believe that we should absolutely measure our success in closing the achievement gap for our students. However, from what I’ve been hearing (and experiencing myself), teachers are so overwhelmed by the emphasis on testing and de-emphasis on the real live kids we teach every day.
Though I am absolutely proud when I see a student ace a classroom test, and I love seeing the numbers that demonstrate that my students are mastering curriculum standards, there is so much more to my students than their test scores. I want everyone to know about how kind Joseph is when he reminds me to pass out homework at the end of class (because I am notorious for forgetting that…), or how thoughtful Sean is when he helps me clean up the materials from class, even though the students have already been dismissed for lunch.
Test scores don’t show the astonishing growth in independence that I’ve seen in Lena when she comes early to school twice each week for extra study time in math, or the pride on her face when she recently got an A on a math test. (I passed the tests out at the beginning of the class period, and she kept it out on the side of her desk for the entire class, occasionally glancing at it and grinning.) The scores may not show that Matthew has finally started to understand the process of long division (after months of hard work), and when he gets it right, his smile extends across his entire face.
The pride my students see in their hard work paying off is not always noticeable on standardized tests, and I want everyone to know how much they have grown as independent thinkers and as citizens who contribute to our school community. To all of my fellow educators out there who are feeling weighed down by standardized testing, I feel your pain. I can only encourage you to see the good happening in your classroom every day, and to point it out to your students when they get frustrated by all of the tests coming their way. Continue to show them how much you care about them and believe in them. At the end of the day, when your students think of you years from now, they may not remember the test scores that you helped them achieve. They will, however, remember exactly how you made them feel, so make your moments with them count.
–Written by Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Editor
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.