Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Failed Sense of Success

With each spring, students and teachers begin the daunting task of standardized assessments to track student progress and teacher effectiveness. This year is no exception. In August, I made the transition into a 4th grade classroom - and although I love my students more than I could imagine - I would jump at the chance to avoid 4th grade standardized testing.  This past week, we began the first round of MAP testing - a computer based standardized test that tests Reading and Math. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we will be eyeball deep in PASS writing assessment. And honestly, I have no idea what they will do.  I do know that I have taught my fanny off all year to prepare students for writing.  But, after Friday's "pre-test,"  I'm not at all confident that their performance will be where it needs to be to receive "Met." 
This "season of testing" brings with it a slew of emotions from students and teachers that those in power will never understand until they have ushered a child out of the room because of stress induced tears, or cleaned up unfortunate accidents that will linger in the memories of those scared to take a test, or tried to explain to a beautifully gifted student that just because they did not meet their target goal, they aren't stupid.

I know in the depths of my soul that I am good at what I do - that I am really good at what I do on a daily basis. But, there is nothing that shakes me to the core than a list of scores with my name attached and a handful of students who dropped a point or two, or missed their target by 1 measley point. I am that student who misses a goal and then questions their ability. Test scores do it to me every year. I wait with my toes curled in my shoes, every muscle tensed, for that first score to roll off of the printer. With every click of the mouse, I wonder, "Did he do it? What do we need to do to grow further?" Today, when the first score rolled off of the presses, I was pleased there was growth, but the target was missed by a hair. I believe in accountability and I do believe in testing, but I want my kids to be able to use the resources I've taught them to use!

Doubt, insecurity, questions - flood my mind. What could I have done better? Where did I lose them? At what point should I have stopped and tried a different tactic? Did I spend too long here, not enough there? How many more days until the next test? Is the project approach really working or did I miss the mark? What class can I take to make myself a better teacher? How can I get my scores to be off the charts like others?

And yet, here I sit on my couch going through all of these emotions, only to discover that - my kids laugh while they learn, my students can podcast, create Haiku Decks, navigate Animoto,  manipulate texts, draw to learn, and a boatload of other things. My kids smile when they see me outside of school. They like me enough to join me at the movies on a Saturday. They wave at their basketball games. They write stories about me. They try over and over and over until they understand. They thank me for choosing to be a teacher. They want me to be their teacher next year.

So, to those in charge of testing, could you create a measurement that would test how well my students can make you laugh, communicate with you about their learning, draw or sculpt the events of a story, create a poem with a complicated rhyme scheme, or anything else that requires 21st century learning skills? If you can, my class will gladly volunteer to pilot the new program. And then, you will have an accurate sense of success in my classroom ,with my students, and with their teacher.

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