If you are an advocate of rewarding teachers whose students perform well on state tests, I have a little, true story I would like to share with you which might bring some clarity to this issue. Before I start, I want to reinforce that this is just one story. There are more where this comes from, and I’m sure I am not the only teacher out there with a story such as this.
After several weeks of test prep activities, I gave the OAT Reading Practice Test to my students this past week. When I graded them, I was disturbed to find that one of my very capable students scored a 42%!!!!!!!! I was further discouraged when I studied some of his responses. For example, in spite of the fact that we had just completed a variety of summarizing activities emphasizing how to summarize various types and lengths of text, this student wrote a one sentence summary! One sentence!!!! How is that even possible? And when I talked to him after grading the test, he could offer no explanation for his poor performance and minimal effort. He just “didn’t know” why he had done so poorly and why he did not fully answer questions on the test. He just “didn’t know”!
Here is where the frustration comes into play for teachers everywhere, and this is what the public does not understand. I could masterfully teach every concept, skill, and strategy my students will need. I could stand on my head, do a song and dance routine, beg and bribe. But if they don’t feel like putting forth effort; if it doesn’t matter to them, it doesn’t matter what I do or how I do it! My effectiveness or ineffectiveness as a teacher surely should not be based on a test that students may not care about. I can talk about the importance of these tests till the cows come home, but if they don’t care, or if their parents don’t care, all of my words to the contrary don’t matter.
What we do in education is not always black and white. We deal with kids, and nothing is ever certain with kids except the uncertainty. Please don’t judge my effectiveness as a teacher on test results which are taken by students who may be uncertain about the test’s importance.