It that time of year-testing time! My fever blisters have returned, my principal has very dark circles under her eyes, our testing coordinator’s face is drawn with anxiety, the teachers’ faces show deep lines of worry, and the students have rarely smiled during the last two weeks. This is my first testing experience in a school where our test scores determine so much of our future.
During the past two weeks, I have watched the tension and the effort of the entire school as grades 3-8 go through a battery of tests. The students did a wonderful job and for the most part worked so hard. Our school had 100% participation in the younger grades and 99% in the older grades. It was a complete school effort to achieve this participation rate from offering daily student incentives to making phone calls to homes. One morning, one student was late and our school secretary called her house and told her parents they had three minutes to get her to school. Believe it or not, the student was at school in three minutes! This is the advantage of having a school secretary who lives in the community and knows everyone!
Prior to testing, our school initiated a program called, “Encourage a Kid”. Each teacher in our school along with school secretaries, aides, and custodians, adopted a student to seek out daily and give extra encouragement. Teachers recommended students for this program based on need. Many teachers took this assignment to heart and really made a special effort to make daily contacts with these students. One of the students I was assigned to would seek out me before the test if I did not get to see her first thing in the morning. This confirmed to me one of my beliefs about the importance of building relationships with students. We also had some outside support in encouraging our students. A local high school’s Key Club adopted two grades in our school and wrote personalized notes to each student. The younger students loved these letters. In a thank you letter one of our students wrote back,” Thank you for helping me not be so nervous.” Some days students were very anxious. One day two classes did not finish the test in the allotted time. The teachers were almost in tears over this and after school one of the students came up to me agonizing over not finishing. I tried to reassure her all we asked was for her to do her best.
I am not one of these people who whines about testing. I have accepted this is the age of accountability for our schools and as a classroom teacher, I welcome accountability. However, when I was going thought the test booklets to erase stray marks,(one of my “fun” jobs during the past two weeks) one student’s test booklet struck me as I turned the pages of the immaculately bubbled in test. This was the test of one of our special education students. I had been told how hard he had worked during the tests. I thought about him and the effort he gave to completing this task of these many tests. I do not know what his scores will be, I just know he gave 110%.
I hurt for our students who are giving their very best and yet by our testing standards may never have the reward of high scores. I wish policymakers could see this student’s face as he worked so diligently for the many days of testing. My concern is how we measure student achievement. Somehow we must find a way to reward all students for the growth they make each year and give every child a chance for success.
I welcome your comments on this subject.