teachers, not testers

from a recent email I sent to teachers:

Dear Teachers,

I am resending these scores from our recent screening and benchmark testing before our data meetings only because some of you asked to see it again. Please don’t take this as a reinforcement of its value. These test scores are only a measure of how your students performed on that day, at that hour. Neither of these or any other assessments paints a complete picture of your students. You know that.

I hope you know that. We are so besotted with technology and easily scored tests these days. And so much seems to be riding on these test scores – student placements, teacher evaluations, and in turn, lots of self-esteem. This is so wrong.

Please remember that you provide the best portrait of your students. At best, these tests should confirm what we already know about our children. Or perhaps, if the scores surprise us, they might cause us to wonder about why.

YOU are the piece of this puzzle that knows what your students’ strengths and weaknesses are. YOU know the determining factors to decide what is best for these children.

Let me be personal for a moment. One of my own children was a talented and determined student, yet did not test well. At best, these multitudinous tests showed this child to be a careful and methodical worker (who didn’t always have enough time to show all that was known).

My other child was much more lackadaisical in studies and school work, but always shined on assessments. However, the tests did not point out the gaps between knowledge and application of that knowledge.

Did they both have the skills that were measured in these tests? Yes. Did they both have the work ethic and fortitude to get the most from their educational experiences? Thankfully yes – but it took one much longer than the other.

I know that some people believe that numbers don’t lie, and that is true. However, the extrapolation of scores, and the predictability formulas, the value-added pieces, and the correlation to other state tests: these are human uses of numbers that may or may not hold truth. And we know that numbers are never a full measure of any person’s life.

So I urge you, as you look at these test scores before our meeting, to remember that these are a guideline, and not the be-all and the end-all. Let’s talk together and figure out how to help each child reach his or her potential. Let’s be teachers, not just testers. Let’s do the work we were called to do.

7 thoughts on “teachers, not testers

  1. Tara Smith says:

    Let us do the work we were called to do…Amen!

  2. These are certainly my thoughts as well. I’m wondering if this too shall pass. I actually think writing tests get more to the heart of what information we need. Unfortunately…hmmm….they cost more to score. xo

  3. Well said! Your teachers are the ones who “know what’s best for these children.” As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

  4. Tara says:

    Wonderful email! Sometimes I just want to yell that I want to tell them about a certain kid, not show them some numbers. The numbers can factor in, but they can’t be the entire story.

  5. I love this and would send the same kind of message to my staff! Have you ever read Yetta Goodman when she talks about being a ‘kidwatcher’? That’s what we need to focus more attention to and, like you said, use these as a guideline. Loved this post!

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