When Your Best Isn’t Worth Anything


I gave a math test yesterday because I had to. I needed the grade for the report cards. I prefer my summative assessment to be less traditional, more fun, more authentic. But when grades are expected, you have to provide grades.

During the test, I spied one of the students writing things like, “how do you I cant.” I told her it’s okay if she doesn’t know the answer, that she should just do her best. One of the boys said, “You have to do your best – that’s why we’re here!”

Yet, despite my best intentions, despite my desire to promote only the positives in an effort to negate the negatives, despite my mantras of believing, trying, and moving on when you need to, and despite the kids buying into these things, the message is clear: for my students, their best isn’t worth anything.

As long as students who read years below grade level are expected to pass reading tests on grade level, their best isn’t worth anything.

As long as students who thrive in other modalities are made to believe that number and letter scores are the sole indication of their value and progress, their best isn’t worth anything.

As long as students are pigeonholed into classifications that insult them, rather than uplift them, their best isn’t worth anything.

My kids are smart. They may have unique ways of showing it that can’t be graded, but they’re smart nonetheless.

Their best should be worth everything, but given this country’s understanding of what truly matters in education, their best isn’t worth anything.

It breaks my heart.

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6 responses to “When Your Best Isn’t Worth Anything

  1. When I read your post I thought about this quote “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
    ― Albert Einstein”

    Standardized testing would be fine if students came in “standard” forms but they don’t. They’re all vastly different from each other.

  2. amen. and amen. My wonderful principal who “got it” used to say that “we don’t get to pick the blueberries, we just make wonderful muffins.” I cringe inside every time “they” tell me to use differentiated instruction and follow with a reminder of the multiple guess test at the end. Assessment should be better. School should be better. The kids are already the best.

  3. Very nice. It opened up my mind. Thanks

  4. Pingback: No Chances for Success Means You’re Doomed to Failure | From the Desk of Mr. Foteah

  5. Pingback: What Testing Does to This Teacher | From the Desk of Mr. Foteah

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