I have wanted to write about this topic for about 3 weeks now, and I haven’t really had the courage or words to express how I really felt. I think I am ready to share one of the mains reasons I considered quitting teaching. The pressure of state testing.
A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail with the state standardized tests’ scores of the students in my building. I immediately printed out the document and began hunting for and hi-lighting the names of my former students. With high hopes, I anxiously noted whether they scored advanced, proficient, basic, or below basic. I also considered how near each student was to reaching the proficient standard if they were right on the border. After doing this, I found a print out of scores from the previous year and compared my students’ fifth grade scores with their fourth grade scores. I stopped dead in my tracks.
It did not seem that many of my students made progress. One of my student’s scores dropped so low (proficient to below basic), I cam convinced she bubbled the wrong answers. She scored no less than a “B” on every assessment we took in class. But nevertheless, some student’ scores increased, some students’ scores stayed the same, and some students’ scores decreased. Without getting into too many details, I had high hopes that all scores would remain in the same proficiency level or increase. I was angry, disheartened, defeated, and deflated. I had nothing but angry thoughts in my head as I considered how hard I worked and how hard many of my students worked, and how challenging that test must have been for them.
What started out as a productive day for me had turned into a few hours of frustration, and probably panic. I felt incompetent and as if all of the effort we put into preparing for the test was for nothing. This is enough to make one want to give up and quit teaching. Especially if it seems there is no hope of helping the students to grow and improve.
I went to the gym to work out my frustration, and then came home to talk to my husband about how I was feeling. He was a good listener which is what I needed at the time. Later on in the evening, I Googled, “How to Improve Test Scores,” and discovered an interesting find.
I came across an inspiring letter written by a third grade teacher to her students in Indiana. I read it, and considered doing this for future students. I later thought, “I need this for me today! Right Now!” Then I wondered how many teachers need to hear or read something like this! I am sure that I am not the only teacher that has worked hard to help their students achieve high standards and believe that they can actually do so, see success happen within their four walls, only to receive a set of standardized test scores claiming to prove that you did not help this child grow academically. I know I am not alone here.
Therefore, using the idea of this teacher, I have written a letter for myself and for all of my fellow teachers out here in the world. It is my hope that this letter will motivate, inspire, and encourage teachers to continue sharing their magic with their students’ year in and year out regardless of test scores. This implies that no matter what, you will continue to have the highest standards in your classrooms while believing all students can achieve them. This implies that you will work your hardest while encouraging and supporting your students to work their hardest; helping them to develop some grit.
Save this letter for when your testing time greets you this spring. And remember: As we continue to grow and renew our passion for teaching, let us teachers stick together and be there for one another as WE define who we are. I am always interested in hearing what you have to say, so share your thoughts about who you really are right here because test scores don’t define you. Thank you for reading, commenting, liking, and sharing! 🙂
Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher