Thursday, June 12, 2014

Message from a Florida Teacher on the Discriminatory Impact of High Stakes Testing on Students in High Poverty Communities

But there is something about teacher accountability that everyone seems to be missing. I worked at a school with an extremely transient population for two years. We had more than a 50% transiency rate in a highly impoverished neighborhood. For purposes of teacher accountability, the only students that "counted" toward our evaluation were the ones at school for the 20-day count. That meant, consciously or unconsciously, the ones that teachers were really putting the most energy into in terms of test preparation were the 50% of students that were present for the 20-day count. Why? The rest didn't matter in terms of our evaluations. When it came down to crunch time and test prep, students that "didn't count" were overlooked. Not with malice, of course. But if the students were defiant, lazy or put up a fight, people would just say "screw it" and let them be. The ones that did count were given more opportunities and incentives to perform well on the tests. Speaking as a teacher in an extremely high-pressure situation -- unless one has worked in a high-poverty school with at-risk kids, no one truly knows what it is like to teach in one -- I simply cannot blame teachers for this tendency. Our survival depends on kids passing these tests. And if you have a heart for at-risk kids, and choose to work in that risky environment, there is that much more at stake. Someone needs to make this known. Teachers need to be put in a position to reach out to every single student, not just the ones that "count." Testing needs to end.