Test Time

It’s that time of the year again! TEST TIME!

As classrooms across America prepare for standardized testing, I can’t help but wonder, ARE TEST SCORES MORE IMPORTANT?!?

My first year as a teacher, three years ago, I taught kindergarten and I really did enjoy it. Being a teacher to 20+ five and six year old children. Awesome. What I didn’t enjoy, was having to prepare these same little five and six year old children for a test that would be bigger than our weekly spelling test. Thankfully, my little ones didn’t have to worry about passing or failing the state test because it wouldn’t determine whether they went to the first grade or not; but I can’t help but to ponder on the what if. Would lawmakers and politicians really have a five or six year old student repeat kindergarten if he/she didn’t pass their state exam?

Fast forward to the current school year. I’m a second grade reading and language arts (RLA) teacher. I work at the same school I did three years ago. This is my second time teaching 2nd grade RLA. The emphasis on DATA and testing has become much more important now than it was three years ago. At about half of our faculty meetings this year, there’s been so much talk about DATA–“the data shows this,” and “the data shows that” or “iReady this” and iReady that” (iReady is a program for reading and math that targets the students’ individual needs in each subjects domain).

Here Comes the Data

This year, each schools iReady data is supposed to be a reflection on how the school will do once state testing begins. The higher the iReady score, the better the school grade’s projection will be; the lower the iReady score…well you know the rest.

After getting the data back from our second iReady diagnostic in Dec., I was happy to see that all of my students made learning gains. They truly gave it their all and I was extremely proud of each of them. My happiness was short-lived however because when we sat down for data chats with our administration, the data showed that out of 48 students, only 12 made a years’ worth of learning gains thus far.

Now, this was the exact same data that made me happy a few days earlier and the school year wasn’t and still isn’t over–this was just diagnostic two of three; but to have a test undermine the amount of learning my students has made from Sept. to Dec. (our first diagnostic was taken when schools in Miami-Dade reopened right after Hurricane Irma) pretty much tell them that they haven’t learned anything in three months was just not fair–to me or to them. The way I see it, some progress is better than no progress and EACH of my 48 students made SOME progress.

When is it Enough?

Day in and day out, we push our students to be the best that they can be. We push them to do well in class. We push them to do well on their iReady lessons because we want them to do well on their iReady assessment–lets not forget, the higher the iReady score, the higher the projection. But when is enough enough?

I’m not saying don’t test students. By all means, test them to make sure they’re learning what they should be learning. Test them to see what they know thus far. But don’t take the teaching out of teaching and make education all about data and testing. When you do that, then is it REALLY teaching? The data won’t show how much of an impact I’ve made on my students. It won’t reflect the number of hours I’ve spent preparing lessons to teach my students what they need to learn. The data isn’t going to demonstrate those “Ah ha moments” that my students get when they finally grasp a concept. The data won’t show any of that! So why put so much emphasis on the data? On one test? Why not just let me teach?!?

Let’s take a moment to ponder about the third graders who can’t pass their state test and have to spend another year in the same grade? Or the senior in high school that fails his/her state test and can’t graduate?

Needless to say, my schools iReady projection is looking pretty good. But at what cost?