The Atlanta Journal-Constitution |

Teacher on testing: We did everything state asked. Didn't matter.

Sometimes, I get a column submission that nails it. Here's one of them. Christine Cato, a third-grade teacher from Vidalia City, sheds some light on why Georgia teacher are feeling frustrated right now.

By Christine Cato

When the state of Georgia said, "You have to make sure you differentiate all of your lessons to meet the needs of each individual student,” I said, "Absolutely."

When the state said, "Your students learn better when they are able to collaborate with each other in small groups,” I said, "You got it!"

When the state of Georgia said, “Move away from paper/pencil assessments. Instead, have your students create a product,” I said, “Sounds like fun!” When the state said, "Kids are kinesthetic learners...don't make them sit in their desks all day­. They need to move around,” I said, "Anything for my students!"

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Then the state said, "Now, we're going to evaluate and assess that you’ve been doing all of these things. To do that, we need your students to have silent engagement for over 12 hours crammed into a five-­day period. They cannot talk­; it may invalidate the testing. They cannot move around more than 10 minutes during an hour-and-twenty-minute testing session. It may invalidate the testing. The testing will be standardized, regardless of where your students were when they came to you. They are going to have to bubble their answers. We hope they’ve had some practice with that."

Then the state added, “You know what else will be fun? We’ll have third graders read two essays, and then construct their own essay comparing and contrasting the ideas they read about. Sure, the kind of thing we started doing in middle school back in our day. We know some of your students came to you still struggling with blending sounds. Yeah, sure, this task might be disheartening to those who are not yet developmentally ready. Okay, maybe some kids will break down and cry because this is just way too difficult; we want to see who can do it. Stop focusing on the negatives, you silly teachers."

“And," the state continued, "we thought it would be fun to have at least one grade at each school take the test on the computer. What do you mean fifth graders can’t type? What have you guys been doing all year? You think they might need more time to write their essays and type them in? Nah...they’ll be good.

“Now, guys, we know that last year we didn’t have this thing graded and back to you for seven months. That was just us, working out the bugs in the system. Perfectly acceptable. This year, we guarantee we’ll have the results back to you in two weeks. How? Don’t worry about it! When has the state ever let you down?”

So we did it. We did everything. Everything the state asked us to do. Every little thing.

And the results? The state’s and local school districts' servers weren’t capable of all of the traffic for the tiny, little testing window they created. Computers crashed. Students lost their work and had to start over. Some kids had to sit around for hours, waiting for problems to be resolved. Kids cried. Some quit. My school system mailed back our “paper/pencil” assessments on Friday.

On Sunday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story stating the state had already decided not to count the Milestones End of Grade tests this year. Five days of testing, 12 hours for my 9-year-olds. Countless tears. For nothing.

As for myself, I am a Georgia public schoolteacher. That is what I do. That is who I am. I love my students. I love my bright, capable students. I love my struggling students. I will advocate for my students. I will fight for my students. I will meet every need that I can.

People wonder what is wrong with education. The state of Georgia asks all the time, “Why are so many teachers leaving education?” I guess that one will remain a mystery. Maybe the person at the state who sends me a survey once a week can figure it out.

About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.

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