Here we go! The month when 9 year olds are stressing out about NYS tests. When 9 year olds come to school worrying if they’ll do well enough, if they’ll disappoint the teacher who they love and know loves them. Worrying if everyone will think he’s stupid if he doesn’t do well enough on this test that’s clearly so important to everyone. Worse, worrying that he IS stupid. And the 10 year old girl who wants to grow up to be a teacher and knows she’s expected to get a four on the assessment? Her perfectionism is already driving her to pick at her fingers and spend the night before restlessly as she goes over everything in her head.
These tests are NOT the full measure of our children. It is important that we prepare our students to do well—that we teach the right curriculum, that we help fill in the gaps for our struggling students, that we offer more challenging curriculum to our brightest children too. We want our kids to take the actual test-taking time seriously so they’re not blowing off any of the sections or multiple guessing through the test. But that’s it—we cannot blow this up out of proportion to the point where our students are experiencing crazy levels of stress about it all. Yes, we want to improve as a District. Yes, we know our students can do better. Yes, we’re doing all that we can through evaluation, data inquiry teams, common core alignment. No, neither are these tests the full measure of our children, nor are they the full measure of our teachers.
Here’s what bothers me the most. NO child should have to see these NYS tests as an indicator of his intelligence, his worth, his value, his future success. And some of our children do. Don’t you remember elementary school and looking around the room, noticing the grades of your peers, measuring yourself against them? I do. And if the Teacher Accountability —only way teachers are going to do the job right—Test, Test, Test Disciples believe this isn’t negatively affecting our children—-THEY ARE WRONG.
Before those same Disciples start with the “well, it’s the tone the teacher sets in the classroom” argument, STOP. In the most loving of classrooms with teachers who work the hardest and do everything possible to teach the curriculum with high expectations for the students and for themselves, the students feel the pressure. It’s really hard to strike the right balance between “please take the test seriously and no, your life does not depend on this test”.
Where are we headed with all of this? As the test results begin to account for 20-40% of a teacher’s public composite score, how is that pressure going to affect our children? How will they feel about coming to school? How will they feel about themselves? Do the leaders at the State and Federal levels know any 9 year olds? Maybe they would benefit by spending some time with a child this month.
To our RCS students and teachers in Grades 3-8, do your best this month on the NYS tests. No matter how our students do, we’ll study the results together, we’ll meet in data teams to determine what went well and what could have gone better, we’ll make instructional decisions for next year that will help us to improve. We’ll plan for our students who need more help.
One more thing. Make sure you go outside and play, we have some beautiful weather and you have a BIG WONDERFUL LIFE ahead of you that goes well beyond your test scores. Enjoy it. Balance.
That last bit was for our students AND our teachers.