By Annemarie Gibson
I went into teaching not because I wanted summers off, or because I thought it would be easy. I didn’t choose this path merely because I like children or because I thought it may not be difficult or because I thought I’d be wealthy.
In fact, it’s safe to say I didn’t choose teaching at all, per say. It chose me. I believe I was blessed with a gift – a gift that enables me to relate to children of all ages. I haven’t given that gift a lot of thought until lately.
The last few years, I have been made to test and practice test-taking skills in my classroom. I’ve approached this task kindly with my students and have done my best to make it some type of educational learning experience.
This year is different. I have already tested my poor 8-year-olds approximately eight hours, with more to come. What really is disturbing is the way the tests are set up for my children to fail. We have to be able to “show” growth, to prove that I am indeed effective, so we have tests that are written for failure. Is it me, or is that scenario not only morally wrong but also nonsensical?
I thought we assess students to drive curriculum, not to assess the instructor. Surely, testing children for hours and hours of time is not the way to effectively judge my teaching ability or their academic gains.
In New York State, I’m defined by numbers. There are the three-minute timed AIMS web tests given three times yearly. Those scores make me highly effective in New York.
The state tests that I give for approximately two weeks’ time and the writing of student learning objectives for each child in my class – based solely on the pre-assessment scores from the first week of school – define if I am highly effective in the eyes of Commissioner John B. King Jr. According to the annual professional performance review, attending the hot dog social in the evening makes me highly effective. Apparently the children in my class benefit educationally if I attend.
All of these numbers and scores get compiled, incorrectly often, along with poorly, hastily written tests taken by children who couldn’t leave to use a bathroom or have a sip of water. Then it is decided if I’m a highly effective teacher.
I believe I am an effective teacher, highly effective. I recommend that a principal come in to my room often, watch me instruct, observe the rapport I have with my students and their parents, view my children’s work from September through June, and actually let me use my time to teach. Surely this would be a highly rational, cost-effective way to gather evidence of whether the students in my class have shown academic growth and whether I am truly a highly effective teacher.
Annemarie Gibson of Tonawanda is a teacher in the Hamburg School District.