Teacher urges ability over test scores: ‘Dear Mom, today at school, I took a test. I do not know if I passed.’

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“I’m an educator and a mother of school-aged children myself, and I understand that testing is a reality in our schools. I realize that tests can prove to be useful, provide information, and help us to better understand where our students are and where they need to be. But they do not, will not, and could never give us the entire picture of a child. A number on a color-coded chart only tells you so much, and I think it’s important for us all to look beyond the data.

You see, according to every standardized test my fourth graders have taken this year, the little girl who made this drawing for me, Valeria, is far below grade level in all areas.

young girl in navy sweatshirt stands next to woman with hand in pocket of vest smiling in front of cinderblock wall
Christina Herr

She is represented by the lowest numbers on all of my standardized testing data charts — always in the red. And yes, she’s struggling. But the test scores don’t represent the fact that she and her family just moved to the states less than a year ago and she speaks very limited English. The data doesn’t show that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up, and that she does read pretty well, but in her native language.

It doesn’t show that after we took the first nationally mandated test of the year, she wrote a note in her journal (in Spanish, but using my own limited knowledge, I knew what it said): ‘Dear Mom, today at school, I took a test. I do not know if I passed.’ No, her percentile score wouldn’t show that. The data doesn’t show that she works so hard every day and that she has been raising her hand more and more to contribute aloud, especially in math. And it obviously doesn’t show her incredible artistic talent. There’s just so much we don’t see.

doodle on notebook paper of girl wearing fashionable red dress with, "Mrs. Herr" written on top of paper
Christina Herr

It’s in the job description. We give tests. I get it, I get it, I really do. They have their place. But when I look at Valeria’s drawing, I can’t stop thinking about how important it is to remember that our students are so much more than a numerical snapshot. They have talents and capabilities and passions that go far beyond scaled scores and percentile rankings.

They have unique experiences and challenges and obstacles that they bring to the table. And students like Valeria, well they also have a lot of grit and determination and a work-ethic that positively shines. I just want to challenge us all — parents, educational professionals, and students too — to remember that our nation’s students are much more than just a score.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Herr, 32, of Lapeer, Michigan. In addition to teaching, Herr is also a writer and can be found on her Facebook page. 

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