I was speaking with a teacher the other day about her potential retirement and the conversation turned to the pressure placed on teachers and the overabundance of testing that is forced upon schools. During this conversation, I think that I figured out the test that accurately measures what we do at school – the test of time. Does what we do with our students stand the test of time? Does the memory of our classroom resonate with our students throughout their lives? This is the true measure of how successful our schools are.
A hot topic in the State of Florida surrounding education revolves around the grading of schools on a new assessment based on the Florida Standards. This school year is the first in which these new standards will be implemented and assessed. Basically this is a baseline year, one in which the assessments should be used as a field test. Unfortunately it still appears that Florida is set on implementing a grading formula that will assess how proficient our students are on this new assessment. The problem is that we truly don’t know what this new test will look like or what the grading formula will be. Past grading formulas reflect growth of students. I question how you can show growth when students haven’t taken this test before. There is no true way to correlate the new assessment and our old test, the FCAT, because from all accounts, different types of thinking are required for each. But here we are, instructing students on new standards along with incorporating higher levels of learning experiences without really knowing how our students will be assessed.
I certainly don’t feel like we should ever teach to a test, but there is serious concern from our teachers and parents about how the scores from these tests will adversely affect our schools and our individual students. Florida has stated that there will not be any penalties for school grades this year, but that is not accurate at all. Try telling that to parents and communities who base where they live on the scores of nearby schools. This all leads back to my fear that we will never be able to break away from grading schools based on one end of the year test.
I am really struck by my revelation about the test of time. I bet that those of you that have had an educator in your life that helped shape your path agree with me. Our students won’t grade us on how well we prepared them for the end of the year test. They won’t even remember their score from that test. What they will remember is the way they were treated and the passion that was instilled in them. Shouldn’t we be judged on the type of individuals that we help to create? I know that I would rather be judged by whether or not we instilled the love of learning in our students. For me this is the true purpose of school. Any educator knows that the best feeling is when a former student seeks us out to let us know that we made an impact on their lives. Isn’t this worth more than a test score? I would like to think that what I do for students will stand the test of time. That’s a test that I wouldn’t mind being held accountable to.