The aftermath


So the test is over….for now.  We have completed the “MCAS ELA Reading Comprehension Test”.  The kids did fine, for the most part.  At the end of the first hour, 12 of 24 kids had handed in the booklets.

At the end of an hour and a half, 19 of them had handed the booklets back in to me.  Not so bad, right?

But what about the other kids?

What does it feel like to know that you still have five questions left, and almost every other kid in your class has already turned in his test?   How do you keep your focus, when you know that the rest of your friends are now chewing gum, pretending to read, drawing cartoon characters in notebooks, playing “cat’s cradle” and having a nap while you labor on?

Most of my class was just fine these past two days. Most of them felt a surge of adrenaline, a jolt of excitement and a little thrill.  Almost all of them got out their pack of jolly ranchers, their tic-tacs and gum packs and highlighters.  The majority of my students settled in, worked carefully, and answered all 54 questions in two days.

But what about the kids who were not so lucky? What about my little Rachel, who is unbelievably creative, intuitive and observant, but who has learned that she has “ADHD” and therefore wonders about her worth as a student?  She was distracted by her bag of books-to-read-when-the-test-is-over, her new shoes, her package of gum and the wood chips showing on the tip of her pencil?  What did the past two days of testing cost her?  How much of her self-confidence, so carefully nurtured during this school year, was taken away by her experience with the state tests?

What about Miyah, the hardest working human that I have ever encountered?  What about her?  Miyah is diagnosed with a language based learning disability and ADHD.  She is a lovely, gentle, kind, conscientious, careful, dedicated student.  Miyah won’t hand in any assignment until it has been completed as well as she can possibly complete it.  It might be three weeks late, but it will be done, and done carefully.  She takes no shortcuts, accepts no excuses, and never, ever, ever gives up.

What does it mean when Miyah works on the first three reading comprehension passages from 10 AM to 2:30 PM, with a fifteen minute break to eat her lunch?  What has really been assessed?

Will the MCAS scores show us Miyah’s strength, or courage, or inner fortitude? Will they show us her diligence, her resilience, her persistence?

Or will they show us a number, a total of “items passed”?  Will they show us that Miyah “needs improvement”, when the truth is that Miyah “needs a medal of honor”?

These tests are an easy formula for politicians to use when they want to prove that they are “working to improve education”.  They are in no way, under no circumstances, a measure of what our children have learned or mastered, or what life lessons they are taking with them as they leave our classrooms.

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