The following true story made the rounds in social media this fall, but I wanted to share it with you now in the spring as so many of us suffer through “testing season” and anxiously await the return of standardized test scores. An elementary school principal sent this message to all her students during the week they got their scores back:
We are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you— the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do.
They do not know that many of you speak two languages.
They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture.
They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day.
They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school.
They do not know that you have traveled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends.
They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best…
The scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. There are many ways of being smart.
A teacher is more than a set of test scores, too. But in our haste to make that point to legislators and administrators and the public in general, let’s not forget the smallest victims of our test-driven school culture. Let’s show kids that we are on their side, and that we know being defined by test scores is stressful for them, as well.
Let’s spread the message to the kids we teach that they’re worth so much more than what a single standardized test says they are. Their most important qualities won’t be measured in a multiple choice math or reading exam. Let’s remind students that that we, their teachers, care about them as people, that we value each of their unique contributions in the classroom, and that we understand there is so much more to their world than what we see glimpses of in a few short hours each school day.