What Testing Does to This Teacher

I’ve written previously on the damage I see done to my students when they’re faced with a test on which there’s no way they can possibly do well. With all the hyperbole leading up to the standardized tests they take, and because they are virtually impossible to pass if you have a disability, my students are often left to feel worthless, regardless of what strides they made heading into the tests.

We’re into it now. Around this time, benchmark assessments and practice tests are du rigueur in my third graders’ worlds. And so for me, the cycle begins anew, just as it has since I started teaching special education: Kids make significant progress on their levels and terms -> kids forced to take tests way above their levels and terms -> kids realize there’s something wrong and made to feel worthless -> kids frustrated, disengaged, unmotivated, and upset.


Recently, I’ve sat and watched with my downcast head in my open palm as my poor 8-year olds have been made to sit in their chairs for unnatural lengths of time, like tiny little soldiers whose feet don’t touch the floor, thinking they have a clue about how to answer the questions in front of them, but demonstrating by their blank stares and nonsensical responses that they are lost. Can’t blame them.

Every group of students is different. These third graders are not nearly as talented or interested in math as last year’s class. They also have the added “bonus,” lucky little winners they are, of taking Common Core-aligned tests. Read: lots of multi-step, multi-operation questions, each one seemingly designed, with a little more vitriol than the previous, to invalidate English language learners and students with disabilities.

Bless their stubby pencils and little hearts, they try. They show work (whether it’s appropriate to the task is another story). They wait patiently for their friends to finish so I can read the next problem. They smile when they think they got it right.

And, in their stunted spelling (learning disabilities, you know), they answer a short response question by saying, “I dink dis test is to haid.”

What’s this do to me? It makes me sad. Makes me angry. Makes me mad. Makes me question myself. Makes me worry about unrealistic expectations. Makes me pity the kids.

One colleague had the best advice about how to deal with this: “Don’t look.”

When we’re all jumping off a cliff together, that’s pretty solid advice.



6 responses to “What Testing Does to This Teacher

  1. Language Arts Teacher

    I feel your pain. Quick question, do you see any value in standardized testing?

    • Not really. It is way too biased and random. Teachers know who is making progress and where more progress needs to be made.

      • Language Arts Teacher

        Perhaps this is true for your grade level and state, but I think our AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards) for Literature (Grade 7) is okay and aligns with the standards taught quite nicely. The assessment for Writing is another story 😉 Good post and good luck with the rest of the year.

  2. Pingback: Remainders: When students take tests they can’t possibly pass | GothamSchools

  3. My wife and I talk about this every night. I teach 7th and 8th grade English. She teaches 5th grade everything. These tests have no value. It is not learning. I am not planning on having my sons take the tests when they get to that point. It is so sad that this is what it has come to.

  4. Thank you for posting your feelings, feelings that many teachers share at this testing time of the year. Your post inspired me to write a post about our most challenged students. I referred to your post in my post, http://teachwellnow.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-do-we-best-teach-challenged-learners.html As always, thanks for your inspired, honest work and share.

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