28 Jul

Some of you may think that teachers spend their summers frolicking on the beach, traveling here and there, sleeping in until 10 o’clock every morning, and overall just livin’ the good life.  I am here to tell you that while SOME of that may be partially true, a good majority of our summer is taken up with worrying.  Not worry about how to pay our bills on our shitty salary or how to keep possible job-costing photos of us off of Facebook, but worry about our (insert sinister music here) TEST SCORES!!! 

We are told by universities, professional organizations, and parents that we are bad teachers if we “teach to the test”.  We are then told by our school districts and principals that if our students do not perform well enough on the test, we are costing the school money and possibly costing ourselves our jobs.  Most teachers do their best to strike an even balance, but let’s face it…when March rolls around and the test is mere weeks away, we panic and start some heavy-duty review and test prep.  That’s just the way it is.

I was fortunate enough to have my worries put to an end yesterday when I received a text from our school counselor.  She wanted to let me know that she had our preliminary test scores in if I would like to have them.  I jokingly (sort of) texted her back that I would love to see them unless they were bad.  The thirty minutes it took her to text me back nearly caused a panic attack.  I am quite pleased when I finally get a reply!  Only five percent of my class scored “unsatisfactory”, which equals about 1.6 kids.  Not too shabby!  My happiness is short-lived however when I realize that this class’s test scores will be compared to last year’s 6th grade’s scores.  That’s how our success or failure as teachers and as a school will be measured.  The problem is, last year’s 6th graders were a group of freaking super geniuses.  This year’s sixth graders…were not.  How in the hell am I supposed to get the same results (or better) from an entirely different group of kids???  Our school also lost points because of attendance.  Now stay with me on this, and see if it makes any freaking sense to you whatsoever.  Maybe you can explain it to me if it does.  If we have a high rate of absences, we lose overall points on our test.  Let’s call my school “School A” and a school on the good side of town “School B”.  School A and School B got the same test scores.  However, School A’s clientele is made up of parents who don’t really care if their kids go to school or not, especially when they’re too hungover in the morning to drive them there.  School B’s clientele is made up of “normal” parents who value education and make their kids go to school unless they are running a fever or puking their guts out.  School A’s test scores will have points taken off because of all their absences and School B will come out with a higher score (and more money) overall.  So even though the teachers at School A were able to get their kids to score that well when they were at school only a fraction of the time, they get penalized.  I think we should get REWARDED for that!  Apparently the state doesn’t agree with me though.

So there’s your first lesson on the joys of testing.  It is often a no-win situation, but one that has to be dealt with every year regardless.  Now I get to begin analyzing all of those scores so I can figure out how to teach this next group of not-so-super-geniuses.