Not too long ago a fifth grader and I were having a conversation that turned toward his upcoming T.A.K.S. test. (For those of my readers who are not in the state of Texas, the T.A.K.S. test, or ‘Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills’ is the state developed test that is used to monitor and track student mastery in the state of Texas.)
The young man was talking about how stressed he had been over the test. He then looked right at me and said, “It would be nice to be a teacher- there can’t be anything stressful about the T.A.K.S. for teachers.” I simply smiled.
While kids all over the state will spend the next few days agonizing and stressing about testing, many teachers will too. I am one of them. Our entire year has been in preparation for this coming week.
If my students do well, it will be because of a number of things; great primary teachers, great parents, a great school, and good teaching on my part. Everyone will get a well deserved ‘pat-on-the-back’.
If my students perform poorly it will be because of only one reason- me. Of course that is not true- and deep down I know it’s not because I know how much I care; however, numbers don’t take any of that into effect. All of those who would want a pat on the back will somehow seem to disappear and take no part in shouldering the blame.
I always end up asking myself the same question: How can I get these 11, 12 and 13 year olds to care about their testing as much as I do? It can really be a challenge.
The only answer I have found seems to be a mixture of all types of things; bribery, fear, cheerleading, satisfaction of a job well done, and more bribery! (Never let anyone tell you the TAKS test has not done wonderful things for our educational system!)
What gives me the most stress, are parents who somehow think that I have some fault in the way the system works. It’s the parents who fight with me about the after-school tutoring, the additional practice work, and the frustration of summer school for a child who did not pass. In all of these situations my hands are tied.
So… should we do away with testing? If you mean in the way we tag each student as meeting a ‘minimal’ standard and force them to ‘prove’ it- then YES. If you mean take away testing totally- then No.
Somehow we must have an assessment for knowledge that is being taught. Not for the purpose of accountability, like the politicians would have us believe, but for the purpose of making certain each child is learning the required content and if he/she is in need of a reteach.
However, like many systems in our country, the only ones who can fix it are the ones who complain to the wrong people. The current state of education is a parent problem. Only parents have the power to make their voice heard above the noise of politics. Only parents can really do something to change things.
If all they ever do is complain- nothing will change.