Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 44

This past week can be easily summed up into one word: TESTING.

I saw so many emotions from scholars and staff this week:

  • Jubilation from the scholar who had to go out on medical leave at the end of last year, began this year repeating the grade, got promoted after the first quarter to the new grade, and scored in the 99% on the reading test! Literally tears of joy were flowing from the teacher and scholar. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed in school.
  • Despair from teachers who had scholars score far below what they know they can score and what their potential is.
  • Confusion from scholars who have only been in the United States for three months, know few English words, and were forced to take a test in English that confuses many native-speakers.
  • Tiredness from scholars who tested for three straight days, some of them taking up to five hours a day meticulously checking over every answer.
  • Excitement when the testing was finally finished.

I could not be prouder of my scholars and staff for fighting through these past several days. I was speaking to one of the proctors on Thursday and said that this isn’t an academic test, it’s an endurance test. Are we trying to determine if students understand the standards or can stay focused and seated for four straight hours?

Personally, I would much rather see authentic assessments measuring our students’ achievement: portfolios, performances, projects. Could our students display their knowledge through different mediums? Could we measure other skills like social and emotional intelligence, creativity, and kindness while we’re at it? Frankly, I value those skills far more in the long run than if a kid can divide fractions or tell me the kind of wind to expect from the Gulf of Mexico in July.

I completely understand that these tests are not going anywhere. We’re stuck with them. But I challenge any law-maker, any policy-maker to come spend a day proctoring for these tests. Spend a day at a school when a scholar receives a piece of paper telling them that they are in the 1st percentile in achievement. I want them to see real faces with these numbers. Real teachers who have to explain to their scholar that “This test does not define you.”

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