Those of us who have had experience with children as parents teachers or counselors know that students are much more than the sum of their tests. In a typical class, student assessments consist of a variety of projects, essays, speeches and discussions, as well as the traditional paper-and-pen tests. Effective teachers work with students in a multitude of ways to ensure their success in the classroom. To determine a child's overall competence in a class based solely on test scores would be ludicrous and inaccurate.
Thanks to mandates from the No Child Left Behind Act, schools begin a strenuous schedule of testing as early as kindergarten. The testing cycle gears up each year, and each year students listen as teachers cajole, bribe, sweet-talk, threaten or simply plead for students to take each test seriously, to get enough sleep and to eat a good breakfast. In the 11th grade alone, these young people face a minimum of six standardized tests. By the time a child graduates from high school, he has completed about a dozen "high-stakes" standardized tests, not including the SAT, the ACT or any Advanced Placement tests. The sheer volume and repetition catch up with everyone, and test scores have a tendency to drop, especially for students who struggle to do well on them anyway.
I am sure that people who spend their lives evaluating all this test data have the students' best interests at heart. But to look at test scores and suggest that teachers are not doing their jobs is an affront to those who have worked diligently for years to help prepare young people for life -- not for tests.
Susan D. Hitt
(The writer is a language arts teacher at Thomson High School.)