Snow day number 16. The pressures of upcoming testing press down on educators heavily. Is there enough time this second semester to teach students all the skills they need to pass federal and state tests? Will our school suffer the wrath of the state or be glorified because we showed tremendous growth on a single day of testing?
The irony is that many of my students won’t score a “proficient” regardless of how many days we are in class. They came to me years behind. If my students improve their reading and writing skills one to two grade levels this year, they will have accomplished so much. Yet they will still not score well on the state tests. I have to be content with the progress I see daily in class. Have they become excited about reading for the first time in their lives? Do they now see themselves as readers? As writers? Have they learned the power of revision? Do they think critically? Do they now work with peers more effectively? These are the factors by which I measure success, not the numbers on the tests. If I relied upon test scores to show me growth, I’d have given up teaching long ago.
I write this to myself today to remember why I got into teaching. I chose teaching as a career because I wanted to help my students believe in their own abilities, to push them to new heights, to help them realize their own value in this world. I want them to know that they can reach goals they have for themselves in spite of difficult circumstances they endure. They need to know that education is they greatest equalizer of all. It can take you out of poverty and change their lives and the lives of their children yet unborn. Education is the single most powerful change agent there is. I did not get into teaching to show off test scores that, quite honestly, don’t truly show a students’ ability to read and write. Those abilities are demonstrated whey they write about what they read, when they discuss what they read with one another and with the rest of the class. Sometimes the skills I teach don’t reveal themselves until much later in life. These are the things I think about as I ready myself to return to the world of high stakes testing. I must remember that the things I teach have so much more impact that their success or failure on a single day of testing.