I do not wish to be an advocate against testing but rather an advocate for students. However, these two worlds have collided making the person who speaks up for students have no choice but to speak against testing. We have just spent the last two weeks administering the Georgia Milestones – an exam that will not be factored into student grades but counts as part of my evaluation – a complete waste of instructional time. To say the last two weeks were stress is an understatement. Trying to keep myself and my students positive and focused at the end of the year while spending two weeks testing is like a salmon swimming upstream; it’s not impossible but hard and exhausting.
And it’s not just me feeling it. Today I share a letter from my good friend and colleague Stacy Gray. If you live in Georgia, please speak up for our students (and teachers).
An Open Letter
To Georgia legislators and anyone else who thinks my job can be measured with another standardized test:
You are, sadly and inimically, mistaken.
You see, Mr. Legislator,
the problem we teachers have with this new test that you think can determine our worth is this:
We have been in the classroom where we’ve seen and witnessed, over and over again, that we teach it, we model it, we guide the practice of it, but when we assess it, there will be a minute few who did not even attempt to learn ANY of it!
We will continue to try, continue to persevere, because that’s what we do.
The students who excel, who soar, will get us through by providing some confidence and satisfaction.
You must understand, Mr. Legislator:
In that same class where a few don’t learn at all, a few will go above and beyond what we expect of them, but then later they will thank US for their success! The group that falls in the middle (those who don’t graduate with high honors, but they don’t end up in an alternative school either), the majority, will be fraught with possibilities. That heterogenous middle group will gravitate to one of two distinctions: the rise-above, and the settle-for-mediocre. We will differentiate in an attempt to increase the “risers;” we will use association in an attempt to see a proverbial light bulb go off for those aspiring to mediocrity. Unfortunately, we will lose some. Some will choose to be chronically absent (we can’t teach them if they’re not there), some will choose a state of oblivion (yes, sir, illegal substances are sometimes a problem for high school teachers, but we fight that good fight too), some simply will not care (until it’s too late). I lose sleep over this group the most. Understand, though, that I learned a long time ago it was futile to worry about the group who won’t even try; the group who despite all my efforts, will not learn at all. They’re an enigma. I cannot worry about that which I cannot change. Again, years of experience (and early on, the wisdom of my “seasoned” colleagues) have taught me that there are some students I cannot reach (they CHOOSE to be -yep- “left behind”). I believe my former president finally realizes that verity. In fact, we can even talk Darwin’s theory to prove that NCLB was doomed (pun intended).
Nonetheless, Mr. Congressman, you have now chosen to measure what I’ve been measuring for myself for almost 20 years. You have chosen to add stress to those students who WANT to excel; you’ve added another obstacle for me in reaching those who MIGHT find their academic niche; and most notably, you’ve given those who DON’T CARE another reason to demonstrate apathy. You’ve taken more than a week of our time (overall) that could have (and SHOULD have) been used for instruction time. You’ve limited my resources, ironically once again, in your attempt “to bring education into the 21st century,” as I have not been able to adequately use a computer lab or the media center because they were “needed for testing.” You also took away my fellow collaborative teacher to administer tests, leaving me to try to help meet the needs of those with modified educational services (based on legislation of your predecessor, by the way) without her. I think some parents of those students might have a problem with that fact, just so you know.
So, Mr. Legislator, when you decide that these ideas of yours are not fair, and they reduce the morale of an honorable profession, I will write you a thank you letter for recognizing that my years of education and experience, do indeed, count for something!
Lord knows, my salary doesn’t.
Thank you, Stacy, for speaking out. We must speak up for our students in order to change legislation and get our focus back on teaching. Do your part!