Who is struggling?

As I look over my roster of scores from last year’s abysmal performance on the state math tests, I have to give a sigh and simply shake my head.

Some of the kids who did poorly really do surprise me.  They had math averages in the 80’s last year (yes, I checked).  They are bright and competent. They should have done better, but they didn’t.  I ask myself, “What could I have done to have made these scores better?”  My only thought is that I could have emphasized the seriousness of the testing to them instead of trying to hard to get them to relax.

I guess I could have told them that the reputation of our school rested on their performance. I could have said that my future in teaching lay in their hands, and that they had better be sure to demonstrate all of the skills that I had so carefully taught them.  I could have let them know that in a year or so, my salary will be tied to how well they do on these tests.  They would have known that they would be literally causing me harm if they failed to pass the test.

But they liked me.  A lot.  I’m not sure that putting all that pressure on them would have somehow raised those scores.

Because, you see, three of the five who should have succeeded were already struggling with issues around anxiety.  They were all in therapy with various counselors to deal with that anxiety, and two were actually on medication for the disorder.

So sue me.  I thought I was doing the right thing by trying to minimize the pressure. I thought that I was easing the stress on the kids.

Clearly I made a mistake. Clearly those in power in the world of education would prefer to raise the scores than to lower the anxiety.

This year I’ll scare the hell out of them.  I promise…..


9 responses to this post.

  1. When my class scores have been bad I’ve wanted to scare the next group too. After I chewed on that thought for a bit (several months) I decided to try and find a compromise between teaching skills that transfer to testing and teaching what really matters. I’ve never come to a place that I’m totally happy with the exchange; but I don’t think it has to be an all or nothing transaction.


    • I know. I was actually being sarcastic, although I guess I didn’t do it well…….I know that part of what happened last year was that Mass is switching over to the Common Core, but hasn’t really done that yet. So we had a state standards book, but were trying to incorporate the CC, but weren’t sure which would be tested…….This is total, unadulterated profit driven bullshit, and every teacher in the country knows it.


  2. Good sarcasm. I am sorry you teach in the US, where the powers that be seem to be hell-bent on ruining the education system. It would be almost comical if it weren’t so damn sad. As a Canadian teacher, I am scared to death that our politicians will, because our Canadian inferiority complex, decide to follow the US down this path of testing misery. Right now, we do some standardized testing but the marks are for politicans to ramble about during election time and for teachers to use as one of many other assessments tools to help with programming. Once again, my sympathies.


    • thank you!
      I often think of Canada as the land of reason, and I tell myself that one day I might be lucky enough to find myself living there……


      • Oh, we can be as unreasonable and ridiculous as the next country but so far, knock on wood, we haven’t jumped on the standardized testing bandwagon.
        I just re-posted a great article by Alfie Kohn on my facebook. Not sure if it will help or just make your feel worse, but I really love what he has to says. I think courage is in the little things, not necessarily the big marches or grand gestures.

      • That was amazing!!!
        Of course, I love Alfie Kohn. I keep a copy of “The Homework Myth”on my desk at Open House.
        Thank you! I think that you have given me the little jolt that I needed to get back into rebellion mode.

      • Love “The Homework Myth”. Hate having to explain over and over to people why I don’t believe in homework for elementary school students and them telling me I’m wrong. “Yes, yes. I did 5 years of research, have 3 degrees and have taught for 20 years but YOU talked about it at bookclub with your girlfriends and you all agree homework is good, soooo…you must be right.” Ha! I just laugh now and refuse to assign it unless it’s fun and the kids beg for it (which they do, when you don’t assign it).
        Any-hoo, get your rebel on and have fun with your kiddies. They are all that matters in the long run.

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