This quote comes from a Washington Post article. Here is the link to the full article which bears reading and posting out and sharing with EVERYONE you know: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/09/a-warning-to-college-profs-from-a-high-school-teacher/. Thanks to Valerie Strauss who consistently offers a voice of sanity in these insane times in education.
The article is a plea from a retired high school teacher to university professors, asking that they (we) will not be harsh in criticizing the kids who arrive at our ivy-covered institutions. As a professor with some time spent in the classroom both BEFORE testing became a business enterprise and AFTER that as well, I am not one to criticize high school teachers for the quality of the kids that graduate. I have had three kids graduate in the last 10 years. I know the almighty test was THE curriculum. I watched all the benchmarking and haranguing and reporting. Fortunately, I was able to assure the kids that test scores were not the be-all-and-end-all. And also fortunately, I had kids for whom testing was not a big deal because they were good at taking tests. Not very kid is that fortunate. And so, lots of kids have graduated and gone on to college not knowing what is in store for them. At the university we have worked long and hard to make kids understand that we want more than answers on a test: we value thoughts and responses that are personal. But we are also being held accountable by the same testing craziness.
Yesterday, I monitored a practice test for our LS students who will sit for their certification exams soon. The practice test is unnerving for a variety of reasons. So is the real test which, like all tests in Texas, changes once passing rates get too high (oh, I know there is more than this, but this is a piece of it as well). Our students do well; our passing rate is well above what it needs to be across the board. But all it can take is 1 student failing if only 3 are taking the exam that date for us to post a pass rate of 67%. How would that look if it were published in the newspaper? Not good for sure. Few people know to look beyond the sterile numbers to the flesh and blood people behind them.
How about the kid (let's go back to the K-12 classroom) who came to school feeling ill? What about the kid who is being abused? The kid who cares for younger siblings so his or her parents can work two or more jobs? The one who could care less about a meaningless test? The one who is fed up with benchmarks and weekend tutorials? The one planning to drop out soon anyhow? One who still translates from English to Spanish (or some other language) and back into English before answering?
I could go on, but you all know this. So, Mr. Bernstein, thank you for all your years of teaching. I wish your retirement came close to the figures that CEOs of the most corrupt institutions out there make. Or that your salary came close to those who are making $$$ from the testing boondoggle. Or the ones who are bringing in $$$ from consulting with schools desperate for help with CCSS. I know this is not the case, unfortunately. But I wish you a happy retirement. And I want you to know that you made a difference in the lives of every single kid you taught. Thank you.