Why My Career Ended Before It Even Started.

As lost as I seem to be these days, when someone asks me, “Well, what do you eventually want to end up doing?” My answer will always be teaching. Working with kids, and actually seeing them learn, knowing I was a part of that is the best feeling. I love changing their mind-set, molding them, and hopefully being a small fragment in their life that they might look back on one day when they need to. Everyone always asks me, “Have you ever thought about education?” Um, yea. Been there; wrecked that.

My first year in education was magical. Mainly because I worked four hours a day, and was teaching Pre-K. It wasn’t just colors and shapes, but I took my work very seriously. My kids were learning that full four hours of the day from manners, to movies. Everything connected, and I loved it. My students were beautiful, and they were my true loves for that year. To see a Spanish speaking student (who refused to talk for the first three months) finally, and proudly announce that he was coloring with orange, then spelled it, made me want to lie on the floor and cry. I was exactly where I wanted to be. My second year (and third) in education came a change in administration, and hours. My first full-time year, and this time I was making rounds as an actual assistant. I saw a change in my desires to teach, as I now was leaning towards a more middle school atmosphere, and I also felt a pit in my stomach. I heard the meetings, the push for tests scores to get higher, the invasion of teachers thoughts and classrooms, and the overall destruction.  It became clear to me that it didn’t matter what they were wearing, feeling, eating, or experiencing…all that mattered were what they were scribbling out on their test packets with their plain yellow number two pencils.

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With teachers being pushed to their limits, working twelve hours a day, conferences, meetings, and still taking papers home, they are not equipped to teach. Which brings up another issue; Are our teachers really teaching? I want these students to leave my class educated, and what our teachers are doing is not that. They are test scorers, givers, reading from pamphlets, egg-shell walkers who answer to the report of their numbers from the boss like salesmen would. Its annoying that these little humans are no longer people who have feelings, problems, and bleed red…they are walking numbers who have the potential to possibly be in the whatever amazing “percentile” that will pass!!! We don’t care if they learn a damn thing, as long as they pass!! We don’t even care if they end up serial killers, but hey, they passed their standardized tests in fourth grade! Not only how we are treating our students is a massive problem, but how we are treating our educators; their feelings reflect in their work. We cover our asses in inventing little programs that make students feel special, and family nights (which teachers will be mandated to attend with a fake and tired smile on their face), and we buy all the teachers their favorite drink one day a year. These fake attempts to reach out do not cover being told they are not enough, to work harder, you are not making a difference (WRONG) because their “scores” don’t show a difference…its bound to leak through your pores onto your chalkboard. Enough is enough after a while; a reason why so many educators have retired, or walked away…simply because they are no longer educating.

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After walking the halls, and being pushed to tears in what could be in these classrooms, excuse me, testing rooms, I had to walk away. Children are not professional test takers, and little robot machines. They are human, and they will be better little humans when they are actually learning about the actual world they live in; When they study their culture, their environment, and things that will make a difference…not fictional math problems, and why Suzi used that word in that paragraph. Really? Standardized testing has literally taken over the world, and destroyed education. We spend our entire year teaching children how to study for a test, rather than teaching them important things in life that will stick, and teaching them how to love school. We don’t even have time for that anymore! We only have time for tests, practice tests, workshops and tutorials!!! Thats all that ever matters!! Screw fun, guest speakers, time outside, and field trips!! How is any of that educational?!?! Don’t forget to plan that two weeks of when we lock down the school like a state prison with teachers roaming the halls, one at every corner, and even listening to you pee in the bathroom. Don’t you even think about talking about this test you little nine-year old! Stick to your script teachers on how to answer that question (you’ll be arrested if you don’t) sign this contract (yea, you might actually go to jail) and here is a step-by-step instruction guide on how to protect the test packets if a tornado hits, or a child vomits on the valuable packets.

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So, after all these standardized tests, and billions of dollars pumped into it, what do we have to show for it? Well, here are the highlights of my research.

1. Standardized testing has not improved student achievement.

After the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) passed in 2002, the US slipped from 18th in the world in math on the PISA to 31st with a similar drop in math, and reading.

2. Standardized tests are an unreliable measure of student performance.

A study published by the Brookings Institution found that 50-80% of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary and “caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning.”

3. Standardized tests are unfair and discriminatory against non English speakers, and students with special needs.

I don’t even need to find some fancy evidence to support this; I saw it first hand. They are pulled into classrooms with a one on one teacher which yes, you think would help them, but all the students know why they aren’t testing with everyone, why they get more time, and not to mention they are being watched like a hawk. It’s just not fun to be “different” because you are with one teacher all day (even during lunch) and who wants to listen to a teacher talk directly to them, then watch them eat their sandwich? Didn’t think so. They want to talk about Power Rangers, and eat lunch with their friends because they are eight freaking years old. Also, what teacher wants to be with this one student all day reading a script? Exactly.

4. Standardized tests measure only a small portion of what makes education meaningful.

AMEN. “Standardized tests cannot measure creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, self-awareness, empathy, leadership, compassion and so on.” Once again, AMEN. They cannot measure HUMANITY and TRUE LEARNING.

5. “Teaching the test” is replacing good teaching practices with “drill n’ kill” learning.

As stated above, if you even present a fun idea to a teacher, they have the stressed response of, “I don’t think we have time for that! We’re getting ready for the test!” I’m not surprised. I’m glad that test will change their lives, it’s so awesome! Thumbs up for learning! NOT.

6. Instruction time is being consumed by the monotonous test preparation.

On September 11, 2002 students at Monterey High School in Lubbock, TX (Hey, this was my dad’s high school!) were prevented from discussing the first anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks because they were too busy with standardized test preparation…yep.

In a society so mentally, and emotionally at risk because of things exposed to them at such young ages, they need to come to a place where they can correctly learn things that truly matter that they might not be learning in their home life…if they even have a home. They need teachers who are happy, not stressed, and have time. They need administration who can look past the rule book at the little human being on the other side of the desk. These students need to learn about the world around them so that they understand love, compassion, leadership, and determination to become better little human beings…while also being disciplined correctly. Why, WHY would they want to put themselves through college when they have been working, and studying like a college student since second grade? By the time these children graduate, they will have literally learned nothing, but will be so tired of looking at books and attempting to comprehending their own scores (that they think rates them at how worthy they are at life) that they will be done with education, and learning. How sad; they were never even shown how to truly learn to begin with.

I’m tired for these kids, and I’m upset. I’ve been cheated out of a career that I thought was a lot different. “It wasn’t like it was when I first started” is something that falls out of so many educator’s mouths. I’m deeply saddened that these kids have no time for mistakes or to even act like a human child. I’m angry that they do not learn, that they merely study. I’m shocked and overwhelmed how much worse it gets; their attitudes, their issues, and these internal educational problems in the system.

Show me a school that wants children to learn, and mentally and emotionally grow, and I will gladly work for my masters in education. Because EVERY child despite how many times they yell in your face, and breakdown is worth educating and loving.

-haley.

The list goes on forever, literally. If you would like to read more (even the pro’s) you can visit standardizedtests.procon.org

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