There is a photograph floating around the internet of a letter a teacher allegedly wrote to her students before they took a state assessment. I wholeheartedly believe the writing and giving of this letter is a true story. I believe this because I think most teachers feel just like this teacher. The letter goes like this:
My Dearest Students,
Next week you will take your State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam for math and reading. I know how hard you have worked but there is something very important you must know.
The STAAR test does not assess all of what makes each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you the way that I do, and certainly not the way your families do.
They do not know that some of you speak two languages, or that some of you love to sing or draw. They have not seen your natural talent for dancing. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them, that your laughter can brighten the darkest day, or that your face feels red when you feel shy. They do not know that you participate in sports, wonder about the future, or sometimes you help with your little brother or sister after school. They do not know that you are kind, trustworthy, and thoughtful … and that every day you try to be your very best.
The scores you will get from this assessment will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. There are many ways of being smart. You are smart! You are enough! You are the light that brightens my day! So while you are preparing for the test and in the midst of it all, remember that there is no way to test all of the amazing and awesome things that make you, YOU!
With this being SBAC season in my school and district (and really in the whole state), Mrs. Brown hit me with one line. “The scores you will get from this assessment will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.” As a teacher of students in a non-testing grade for the first time in a long while, I still find myself on edge for these kids this time of year. My former students are of ‘testing age,’ if we could coin that term. When I see them in the hall, I probably frighten them with my enthusiasm. “Testing day – wa-whoooo!” “How’d the test go? Did you try your hardest?” “I’m so proud of how you’re going to do today!” I find myself walking my 2nd graders down the hall, only after a HUGE speech that the classrooms we’re going to pass are taking “a very important test that CANNOT be interrupted!” It’s as though, even in my most accomplished mindset, I’ve forgotten that line. This test tells you something – but not everything.
I will also state that I completely understand the many political and logistical concerns about the exact details of SBAC. I do, however, think assessment scores are powerful. A standardized test that measures CCSS can give us some powerful data about students that will help us best address the needs of our population and provide appropriate interventions, both at the micro and macro levels. However, we cannot effectively run a school with the scores of one test alone.
The pressure that myself and my colleagues feel about the results of a one-shot test, for so many reasons, makes it easy to forget in the short term that we don’t teach for this. We teach for the ‘a-ha moments.’ We teach to help students find their place in life. We teach to see children make measurable growth.
According to Washington’s TPEP criteria, effective teaching uses “multiple student data elements to modify and improve student learning.” (Criterion 6) The CCSS gives me a blueprint for my grade level. Assuming perfect alignment and accessibility, the SBAC gives all of us data about where a student falls on one given day. Effective teachers will look at that, along with a plethora of other knowledge about a student’s performance, skills, and demonstrated learning to best make a plan for each child. In SBAC season, I need this reminder more than ever!
Thank you, Mrs. Brown, for being the kind of teacher I want to be – the kind of teacher that is in this profession for the same reasons I am. I aspire to show my students, with such genuineness, how much I appreciate their individual gifts and acknowledge their growth to the same caliber you do … each and every day.
I’ll leave you with a video of a 4th grader who must make her family proud. Miss Sydney Smoot, like Mrs. Brown, is floating around the internet too. Her speech to her local school board about this same matter is going viral. In my opinion, in the times where anything can go ‘viral,’ the internet audience is making a great decision this time around – both Mrs. Brown and Sydney Smoot deserve their 15 minutes of fame!
What do you think about Mrs. Brown’s appreciation for her students? What do you you think about Sydney’s thoughts?
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.