Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Heart Palpitations

Some people get test anxiety. I get test proctor anxiety. In my school district, students take a computerized test three times a year: once at the beginning of year, a mid-year check-in and the end of the year final. When I first started teaching, I used to take these tests in stride. However, as the years go by and "education reform" starts taking hold, these tests really make nervous.

As we enter the computer lab, my heart starts thumping hard in my chest. Walking around the room, I coach myself to breathe in for a count of four and out to the count of 8. I'm this anxious because I know that right now, I have no control over this situation and I desperately care about the outcome. Although we say these tests are for us to diagnose how we can better help the students (and I do use it for that, but it more confirms what I already know), I feel it's becoming less about discovering student's abilities and more about judging the teacher.

Here's how it works. Each of my students is tested at the beginning of the year to determine their base score. At the end of the year, we test them again. From there, based on only two instances of testing, their growth number is determined. A report is then generated about each teacher as to the percentage of their class that achieved "typical" growth. Our district then uses a formula based on these tests to rank all teachers in the district against each other. This is what goes through my head every time my class tests.

So yes, I get a little nervous. Today, I was proud of my students. They took the test seriously and many showed amazing growth.

I just wish education today could focus more on the individual student and less on a number assigned to them from a test. We teachers do so much more in our classrooms for our kids. They grow in ways, both socially and emotionally, that could never be tested. It frustrates me how everything has become about the test and not about raising informed citizens. In many classrooms, Social Studies and Science are being pushed aside to make way for prepackaged programs and more interventions.

I dream of the day that all teachers come together and say, "Enough." When will we take back our profession?


  1. Maybe when people start voting for Ron Paul. :) Getting rid of government directives is the only choice. Allow the free market to work. You are a great teacher, you will shine--always and your students will too!

  2. I grew up in Germany and I'm not very familiar with the American Education system, but this seems a very general to judge a teacher! The kids could play a trick or just don't feel it. Plus there is so much more you teach the kids, which can not be tested by a computer!