Every spring my daughters who take our state mandated test come home sharing their school’s mantra for the year to get them geared up for the test. They fret and worry about their acuity scores and SRI levels. They ask me to help them work on this and that. I ignore them. I tell them it doesn’t matter and I change the subject.
But on that same day I spout my school’s testing mantra to my students and I spend my prep creating data sheets and reports sizing up my instructional weaknesses based off these very same tests. I find their value to me and I use it to better myself as a teacher and to fine tune my instruction.
About May or June I start to receive the “Dear parents or guardians of ….” And I let it sit there in my mail pile. I watch each day as it drives my daughters crazy. They eyeball it wondering how they did. The first few years they wondered if they would pass their grade. I know my children and I know what those test scores say. But they wondered. I didn’t know ahead of time or even peek in the envelope or website without their knowledge.
I rejoice with my superiors at the scores and I create action plans for those that need help. I work a little harder honing in on skills and pray a little harder that my students will pass. I talk to them about the seriousness of the test and I believe every single thing I say….As a teacher. In my classroom I only occasionally bring up “the test” but I do bring it up because it is a reality. I say over and over again it is a measure of you in a moment and it is a guide for me. And we move on.
I try and teach my girls to find their value in their work ethic and ability to seek out answers when they can’t find them. I remind them the path to the answers is far more teachable than having the answer right away. Or reinforcing what they already know by helping someone that doesn’t know and seeks out their help says more about their aptitude than seeing pass +.
I go to meeting after meeting and I speak as a leader in my department on our data. I actually do so proudly. I
see the worth and value to our data and I seek constant ways to track it and find meaning in the numbers. I believe that it is a part of the formula that makes my school so great and me a good teacher. I know our data by heart usually. I also know that it isn’t the whole story. I see their faces, their stories and their value so far beyond this test.
So yes I am 14 years (almost) into this parenting gig and I have yet to look at a standardized testing report. Yes I look at their report cards and grades. But the biggest favor I have ever done for my children is be involved and have high expectations. I don’t let them make excuses for poor choices, I guide them to learn from them. I expect their work ethic and respect for education to be high and because of all of this I don’t need to see or know if they passed their yearly mandated test. I let their teachers do their job and worry about those numbers. I create relationships and dialog with their teachers and principals trusting they will alert me to issues. I trust their professionalism. So far this method has worked amazingly. I have good and hard working kiddos.
I reiterate to my students parents that I know their stories so far beyond what some pie chart says about their ability. I worry about those who may not pass and try so hard to will it in my bones because I understand a system that sometimes seems broken when it can define a student’s success when they are just a number. Which is exactly why they will never ever be just a number. They are never just a anything to me. They are teenagers in their last few years before adulthood that need someone like me to say you matter and you are worth more than a percentage number assigned to you.