Sense of Urgency

January 31, 2013

Urgency

After receiving our Winter Benchmark Assessment scores based on the Common Core standards, the teachers in my building received an e-mail from an administrator, reminding us that it was a priority to “react to these scores with a sense of urgency.” These district assessments were administered three weeks before Christmas.  Our first graders were expected to complete pre-algebra, double-digit addition, and geometry problems.  Their only concerns were involving Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.  Urgency?? 

 After the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy occurred  one week after the asessments, I took a good long look at my itty-bitty first graders.  They are just six years old.  They have only been on this earth for 72 months.  That’s 312 months or 2,190 days.  Sense of urgency??  What matters most to parents of primary students?  If you took a poll, I would bet the average response would be: accepted by everyone in the class, making friends, learning to read, and nurtured by the teacher.  How am I nurturing my students by cramming down assessment preparations with a sense of urgency?  Do they leave my classroom with a song in their hearts and happy smiles on their faces?  Or do they leave with tired little faces, wanting to go home?  How am I instilling a lifelong love of learning?

 Now I know what any administrator will respond with at this point.  “Well, quality, rigorous instruction with high student engagement, formative assessments, and small group instruction will have the best results.  We aren’t asking you to teach to the test.”  I agree with this statement; but, any administrator who requires a Kindergartner and/or first grader to take a high-stakes standardized assessment IS asking us to teach to the test.  Have you ever given a cat a pill?  Well, now you have a picture of how it goes in the primary classrooms during standardized assessments. 

 I want to come back to the sense of urgency.  You know what the teachers throughout the United States should be urgently responding with??  Teachers need to band together and just say NO to excessive standardized assessments. I understand the statewide assessment is important, but testing three times a year for the school districts is becoming ridiculous. There are three important reasons why district standardized assessments should be eliminated:

  1. Waste of valuable instruction time.  For three quarters, we spend one week on benchmark assessments, 2 weeks on DBQs, and 1 week on a writing benchmark assessment.  4 weeks of testing each quarter?!
  2. Waste of paper.  Seriously, people!!  I am sure standardized assessments will lead to a dramatic increase of Global Warming at this rate.  
  3. Students are burned out.  I dare you, go into a public school and say, “Testing.” 

If educators are the professionals that we expected to be, shouldn’t we have several kinds of data to provide a clear understanding of our students’ academic strengths and weaknesses?  Teachers need to UNITE together, create alternative solutions to high-stakes testing, and start petitioning school boards, legislators, and teacher unions.  We need to stand up and just say NO……. with a sense of urgency. 

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Lisa Moberg

Lisa Moberg (formerly Gura) has been a teacher for 18 years, from kindergarten through 5th grade.