Greatness (As Measured By Standardized Tests)

I have been extremely lucky to teach for the last seven years and not have the added stress of teaching a tested subject.  The truth is, teaching is a completely different job when the pressure of student scores doesn't hover over you.  I would know!  For the previous four years, I taught physical science while colleagues of mine were teaching biology and chemistry.  It was evident right away that the level of responsibility is completely different.  I always understood that my effect would be felt in Algebra 1 scores, but I also felt personally responsible for fostering a love and appreciation for science and analytical thinking.

This year, I am teaching two sections of biology for the first time.  I couldn't be more excited.  I crave challenges, and since I stopped coaching baseball a few years ago, I kept searching for an opportunity to feed that need.  Teaching this tested subject is exactly what I needed.

However, I am extremely conflicted with personal experiences because my son has autism, and every year I watch him take assessments that do not adequately measure his abilities.  I really feel that it does not even catch a good glimpse of the growth he shows.  I believe in personalized learning, so the thought of standardized tests feels so counter-intuitive to that idea.  It really makes me wonder who the data is really for.  Is the student data really for the students, or is it for the teachers?  Students have academic accountability because the tests factor into their grades, but not every student is motivated by the grades they earn.  There has to be a better approach to connecting with students, motivating them, and providing data that will mean something to them.

One thing I know I do not have to worry about is building relationships.  I know that is a strength of mine.  I am extremely curious to see if it is possible to build collective efficacy around a standardized assessment.  Will I be able to inspire a class full of students to see the test as a challenge the way that I see it?  Time will tell.  The only thing I know, is I couldn't be more excited to see what we accomplish together.