This time of year, English teachers heads are filled with words like evidence, analysis and topic sentences. For us, the promise of spring also comes with the promise of piles of papers, eraser shavings and pencil dust; all swirling towards the dreaded MCAS tests.
Year in and out, I work hard to teach my students how to become strong readers and writers. I work with students from a variety of socioeconomic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Our classroom includes kids with a myriad of emotional, linguistic and learning abilities and disabilities. We are a fully inclusive group.
Despite my best efforts, many kids choose not to do homework; some parents support things like after school time spent on incomplete assignments and holding kids to higher standards, while others prefer a path without conflict. Still, each day, my students and I work together to create an environment that promotes learning in a fun and engaging way.
Most of the time, we succeed. Usually, my kids make great progress in their learning, and this is shown on MCAS. But not always. Last year, one kid decided to rip up his test and eat it. (Seriously.)
When talking to parents and townsfolk, it was a bit jarring to realize that they feel that the test is primarily a measure of me as a teacher. They feel that when the scores are published, this shows what I was able to do to help kids learn. Is it really all about me? The chewed up test was included in my student averages last year- I was trying really hard to get this student more much needed help and support- should his test scores really be included with my data? Going down that path is opening
a dangerous an explosive can of worms…
As a teacher, I go home and cry about my kids. Patrick and I have spent countless hours discussing the kids who I teach. How can I help them better? Who could help them access the resources they need? What more can I do to motivate, inspire and excite them? What about that kid who just needs… this list is endless.
I have taught kids who are homeless, some who refuse to pick up their pencils, and those who are justly more worried about feeding their younger siblings than learning how to read an MCAS article. School districts across the country are scrambling to find the answer about how to best help kids, and teachers are fighting to keep up with the changes, while managing the complicated and diverse needs of kids.
I find myself questioning what control I do hold over my student’s learning. Is that what MCAS is assessing? I’m not sure exactly what the answer is, but I do know that I have kind, thoughtful students and that I love my job.
And its at least another 11 more months before I have to worry about MCAS… Or will it be PARCC?