Texas is a proud innovator of the STAAR test (State of Texas Assessment of blah Academic blah Readiness blah blah, for the technical name). The STAAR test is the latest form of standardized torture for Texas teachers. I feel a vicarious sense of anxiety this week for my Texas teacher friends, of which I have many, because they are responsible for reversing the damages inflicted by poverty, poor parenting, apathy, and neglect on the sweet little children of our state. My teacher friends are not only responsible for teaching their subject and grade level content, but also ensuring that the kids learn it, highlight it, write about it, recite it, tweet it, and come to 5900 tutorials in preparation for the multiple choice test over it. Basically, teachers need to suck all the fun out of learning while making learning fun, and provide real-world application for knowledge while making sure everyone knows that if you have to guess, guess B or C.
Teachers have to encourage their students to get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast and all that jazz, but they also have to make sure their students actually care about the test. And therein lies a huge problem with the profession of teaching and the current pressure of standardized testing. When a hungry child shows up in our classrooms, we can’t make him care about dividing fractions. When an abused kid finds refuge within the safety of the school hallways, we can’t make him care about the main idea of the passage. When a homeless set of siblings eats their only meals of the day in the school cafeteria, we can’t make them focus on the dates of the Civil War. But standardized testing results are the priority in public school. Whether you believe it or not, that is a fact; just look at the “benchmark calendar” for evidence. The entire curriculum, the entire calendar, lots of the funding, and the entire year is based around this week, when little bitty people are forced to sit silently in a desk for four hours and sweat over blank answer bubbles. (For more information, see ludicrous in the dictionary.)
I’m not teaching anymore, and I hope to never be in the classroom again. As an intelligent person, I didn’t appreciate the micromanagement of “data” by my administrations. I didn’t appreciate the measurement of my students’ improvement by one test on one day of the year. I didn’t appreciate having to tell a child they “failed” and would have to retest/take summer school/work harder to prove their value to our school district. And I hate this for my friends. They are smart, dedicated, caring individuals who want to make a difference in kids’ lives. They work hard, they work overtime, they work under impossible conditions to be a light in a kid’s life. There is more to this job than test scores. There is a whole lot of love in teaching that is overshadowed by arbitrary assessments that will never make a child’s life better.
So to all my teacher friends this week, good luck! I want all of your kids to pass their tests, and I want you to feel a sense of accomplishment in a job well done. But I hope mostly that your students know you care about them as people. I hope that they work as hard as they can on their test for you. Because they want to make you happy. Because they love their teacher. Because they know that someone is cheering them on who wants them to be successful in life, not just on one test. That’s how it works, you know. They don’t give a flip about that test. They just want to make YOU proud.
*I taught 5th and 8th grade Reading/ELA. This means my kids had to pass the state test to advance to the next grade level. They had 2 chances plus summer school. They were 10-15 years old and almost every student I ever had lived in poverty (monetary or parental) at some time. They almost all passed, every year, and they were awesome. Good teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. This will affect all of us at some point. And it’s sad.
*This is not a comprehensive blog post about the evils of standardized testing. That would take a new blog and daily posts for a couple of years. Just my thoughts today for my teacher friends.