Yes, it is that time of the year again – Standardized State Testing. Oh my, everything that we have taught all year must be regurgitated in six tests over the course of three days. Unless you are in one of the lucky grades, then you get to take the science and or writing test, too. Our testing window begins Monday and runs all week. As an instructional coach, I inventory, prepare, and secure all the tests booklets. All the materials are ready for check out on Monday, aside from a few booklets that need to be bubbled for newly enrolled students. Honestly, this is my least favorite time of the year.
Yesterday, I sat in a fifth grade classroom for a few minutes while the teacher needed to step out. As I wandered the room, listening to the hum of the pencil sharpener I wondered if every student in the class was going to sharpen their pencil. Fortunately after a few minutes, the drone of the sharpener stopped. It was just interesting watching and observing the kids in that fifth grade class. One boy near the front took several minutes to get organized. He probably didn’t notice me watching as he tried to whack a fly with his Captain Underpants book. Other kids were coloring and drawing pictures, completely absorbed in their work. Still others were buried in books reading such titles as The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Hobbit, and Diary of a Whimpy Kid. Another girl was eagerly writing a script to make the story: Seekers: Smoke Mountain into a play.
I had been in this classroom several other times this year to observe lessons, however I had never stopped to just notice. I was too busy scripting or counting how many kids were engaged to really notice. So today, sitting in that room, I started to wonder what kind of contributions these fifth graders would have on our society in the coming years. Have we prepared them to be successful in middle school, high school, college, and a contributing member of society? They seem so confident and self-assured out on the playground – almost bigger than life. But now, sitting here in class they seem so young and fragile. At ten and eleven years old, they have their whole life in front of them.
I worry about budget cuts. How will these cuts impact the quality of their education, the programs that enrich their minds, and the resources that expand their horizons? How will the drastic cuts to education impact the rest of their lives? As I walked back down to my office, I started to think about when I was in fifth grade. Did I have the worries and responsibilities that many of these kids have? No. Was I stressed and anxious about district and state assessments? No. Are we doing a disservice to our kids by relying so heavily on these tests? Often times, using these tests to drive our instruction, not to inform it. I worry about the impact testing will have on their future. I know we need to have high standards and evaluate student progress, but I don’t believe this is the best way to do it. What do you think?
As you prepare for your district and state assessments, I invite you to listen to this short song, Not On The Test by Tom Chapin.