Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get!
Today I celebrate being “average” – or, rather, I celebrate having some perspective on being “average”… which is what my students and I received for our PARCC scores last year.
When my principal shared this news with me, I went through various stages of disbelief and grief: shock, confusion, mortification, embarrassment, shame…and sorrow. What had happened? How could this be? My principal was kind and supportive: here are some web sites and resources he said, you may want to think of some ways in which you can change up preparation he advised.
I walked back into my classroom in a daze, then sat at my desk and looked over our room…at the photograph of last year’s class:
I looked at each face, bright and happy, full of the joy and promise of being twelve and having so much growing and thriving ahead. My kids were not (are not) average. I thought of all the work we had done in our sixth grade year together: thinking, reading, writing, and questioning. We had not thought in terms of below average, average or above average. We had thought in terms of do your best, push yourself, grow yourself, believe in yourself.
And then I thought about the test, and how the very structure of it ran counter to all the ways in which we had worked together to read, write and make meaning of text: experiencing the whole of a text in order to carefully decipher plot, character development and theme as opposed to excerpts of chapters (from texts that were developmentally inappropriate) and (even worse) poems. I thought of the poorly worded questions, and the multiple choice answers which were calibrated to confuse rather than clarify. I remembered how frustrated my students were when we had taken practice tests: what are they asking? what does this even mean?
And then my shame gave way to anger. I am all for assessments and accountability – I believe that both are vital to education, and to maintaining both rigor and relevance to what we teachers do in our classrooms every day of the school year. But give us an assessment that aligns with what we teach, and how we teach. Hold us accountable to meaningful teaching practices, the kind that we invest so much of our time and energy, the kind that we commit ourselves to every single teaching day.
My kids have to know how to take tests, I know this. There are many tests ahead of them, all of which will determine their entrance into high school classes, high school itself, and then college, graduate school and employment in the wider world. I want them to be confident test takers, because so much of how I teach is geared towards making them confident learners: do your best, push yourself, grow yourself, believe in yourself. I want them not to see themselves in terms of calibrations of average but as being eminently capable of achieving anything.
In need of clarification ( and, yes, validation), I reached out to my Voxer group of teacher friends about tests, scores, and all that they have come to mean. I loved these words from Julieanne Hartmatz:
I want them to be relaxed but I want them to be confident, because in life we have to do this, in life we have to take tests…we need to know how to do this world, but I don’t want to take away who they are and what it means to be human and know what really matters in the world…
Yes! And so I think I am ready now to put the thought of “average” aside and move forward. Learning my scores for last year at this stage, when we have just completed this year’s PARRC, did us no good. Perhaps the scores for this year’s class will be “average”, too.
But my kids are not average. We are more than a single score – and that score is but a single snapshot of our year long and life long learning lives, which are rich, meaningful, challenging and relevant. We do work that matters. And I celebrate that.