Standardized state testing is almost upon us.
In Michigan, state tests are in October. Students take them: wham bam, thank you m'am. Then no one thinks about them and everyone teaches normally until the end of the year.
Not so here in this fine state. Our tests are spread throughout March and April and every staff meeting since August has been about improving test scores. Teachers are forced to tutor for two hours twice a week after school expressly to raise student's test scores (Oh, Teacher's Union, WHERE ART THOU?). We take practice state tests twice a year and students' scores are graphed on bulletin boards. We hold pep rallies to get kids pumped the day before test day. We promise them Happy Meals if they pass. We take them to the movies if they get commended ("commended" means an almost perfect score).
In everything we do and say we are communicating to our students that this test is the only important thing in their academic careers. If they fail, then they might as well have stayed home all year instead of coming to school because that state test is the only thing we want to look at for proof of progress. And the adminstration communicates to us teachers that if our students fail the state test, then WE have failed them as teachers.
I know the kids are feeling the pressure because my fifth graders have burst into tears when they failed the math practice test. Yesterday we graded the practice state test for reading. Most of my fifth graders did pretty well, but some sat there looking sad. So I closed my classroom door and reminded them that I don't care if they pass or fail the test: what I care about is how hard they tried. "Because 10 years down the road, you are not going to remember if you passed or failed this test. But how hard you try determines how successful you are going to be in life". I mentioned that there are other teachers who are counting down in big fat letters on the board "31 days till the test" and so on, but that I did NOT want them to worry or stress out about it.
As soon as I got those words out of my mouth, they all piped up. Apparently, they don't appreciate the countdowns either. One student said: "It makes me feel worried and then it's one more day and I say OH NO". One girl said: "Ms. K does that and it.... and it.... and it makes me so... IRRITATING!!"
There you have it. I know that state testing serves as school accountability, but shouldn't we be trying to shield our students from all of this pressure instead of passing it onto their shoulders?