During a meeting a week ago, I was engaged in a conversation amongst fellow teachers. We were discussing the implications of tracking. The conversation led down the path of standardized testing— as it so often does. How do we make sure that all students are learning if we are in a perpetual race to complete all of the standards that are prescribed in a given year? Teachers are under mounting pressure to conform and move away from their desire to do what’s right for kids to making sure the students can pass a test. In many states and reportedly soon in my own, teachers are being evaluated based on their students’ test scores. This measure is wrong on more than one account. Is a teacher truly ineffective if they are unable to get all students to be proficient on state testing? In some cases, this task might be a beyond impossible feat. We should be looking more places than test scores. There is so much student growth that is happening outside the myopic vision of the state tests.
If covering all of the standards means that we will have to race from one concept to another leaving many students in the dust while ignoring the social-emotional needs of the learners, then count me out. No matter the consequence, I won’t cave. If caving means that we aren’t addressing the real needs of the students that we work with then I will continue to stand my ground. I think about the many students who I have taught who may not be proficient, but have grown as people. I think about the young man who started out not saying a word and often lashing out in anger when pushed to complete an assignment. He left a person who came early and stayed late and worked hard to fill in the gaps. He left feeling a part of a community and a positive view of his own education— something that he never felt before. I think about the girl who was disengaged from her education, quick to fight, and often argued with teachers. This same girl is now serious about her education, smiles often, and overtly grateful. I think about these students and many more and I know that teaching encompasses so much more than having the students successfully bubble in a few answers on a test. As long as we continue to look at the state test as the sole measure of student achievement, we will be driving teachers to teach content and not students. They won’t be doing this because they know it to be the right thing to do. They will be doing it because they are afraid of the consequences. The system is hamstringing teachers to consider little else than AYP while losing sight of the people their students will be.
As for me, I won’t be governed by fear of consequence because I know the teacher that the students need me to be. I know that they need me to be a teacher of people first and of content second. For all those in the rowing upstream alongside of me, keep on rowing. We cannot cave.
Here’s a reminder why we must continue the fight.