Ah, March! The trees are blooming, the grasses are greening, the azaleas are getting ready to pop, and the dogwoods are budding. There is nothing more beautiful to me than spring in Georgia. But now I have little people, and with the pretty stuff comes the really ugly stuff. Testing Season (n): that time of year when all learning stops, when kids have to be quiet all the time, when the “drill and kill” begins, and when students, teachers, and parents shed many tears and gnash many teeth.
There has been so much demand for teacher accountability and teacher blood, really, that our legislators have literally thrown the baby out with the bathwater when it comes all these tests and what they do do to our students and their love of learning. Does testing make teachers accountable? Maybe. I believe it shames them more than makes them accountable. Does it do anything to instill the love of learning in our kids? Not. At. All. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it makes them hate school.
I believe that on any given day, teachers are doing the best that they can with the materials they are given (students are materials in this, too…blah blah blah; they are). There are some children who wake up on the morning of test day, pencils sharpened, with visions of sitting for hours on end so they can click some buttons on a test that has not been proven reliable; I haven’t met any of these fine children yet, and I doubt I will. They may exist…somewhere.
But, what happens if a normal child wakes up and feels badly? What happens if the alarm goes off late, and the whole house is in chaos just to catch the bus? What if the milk went bad, the dog is sick, the grandparent is sick, or, god forbid, the parent is sick? What if the goldfish, Sushi, died? All of these things affect how a child performs on a test, which, in turn, affects how the teacher is evaluated. And this doesn’t include the apathetic testers like the ones borne to me.
Some personal experience as to how a child can
skew ruin a lovely teacher’s test average: See, the girl child is what educators call “average”. YES! MY KID IS AVERAGE. She’s in the 50th percentile in just about everything when she takes her tests seriously. When she doesn’t, she pops down between the 2nd percentile and the fourteenth percentile (meaning that pretty much everyone in the free world is doing better than my kid is). And her poor teacher, who I believe to be one of the best teachers I’ve encountered, is going to be punished because my changeling child may or may not take the test seriously. There aren’t any repercussions for my kid, either. Summer school? Excellent! Free day care! That may prove to her that she should try harder next time, but as the wind blows, so does her apathy, and she may decide this summer that she’s not interested in trying then, either.
Who gets punished? The teacher! The student should be punished, really, with those nasty natural consequences, but the state of Georgia won’t punish the kids; they just want to punish the teachers. “The parents vote,” they say (I think they forgot about that little piece of voting in the 90s when Roy Barnes was all but tarred and feathered, but I digress).
While we ponder on testing variables, unreliability, and apathetic fifth graders, we could also bring up the fact that America spends 1.7 BILLION DOLLARS on testing. That is a boat load of a lot of zeros. In fact, if we took all that accountability blood money and divided it by all of the states, we would have 34 Million in Georgia’s coffers. So there’s all this money tied up in testing, and for what? So that my kid can decide whether to take the test seriously or not? So that we can put a Scarlet F on teacher certificates and publicly shame them?
I’d just as soon take some Claritin and go outside…with my little people…and let them play the way little people should play.