Teacher Reacts: State Tests RUINED school for children | The Problem with Standardized Testing

The pressure of standardized testing on elementary school students has gone to an extreme. We are testing for the sake of testing which is leaving young children too anxious to go to school. Natalie gives advice to parents on how they can support their children without pressuring them.

Teacher Reacts: State Tests RUINED school for children | The Problem with Standardized Testing
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

The pressure of standardized testing on elementary school students has gone to an extreme. Natalie reacts to how these pressures are impacting children, families, and teachers. We are testing for the sake of testing which is leaving young children too anxious to go to school. She gives advice to parents on how they can support their children without pressuring them.

đź”· Free Download! 4 Easy Emails to Send the Teacher https://primaryfocus.tv/4-easy-emails/

Sources and further reading:
Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis: https://cepa.stanford.edu/educational-opportunity-monitoring-project/achievement-gaps/race/

Essence New Study Shows Black Women Are Among The Most Educated Group In The United States: https://www.essence.com/news/new-study-black-women-most-educated/

Thumbnail news article: https://www.scarymommy.com/standardized-tests-are-stressing-our-kids-out


I'm on a rant today. Let's go. I just got home from tutoring and I am so mad. All of my tutoring sessions this week have been exactly the same thing.

Working with kids that were already having a little bit of trouble in school, that are feeling the pressure of state testing coming down around them. And it's just, it breaks my heart. And it makes me so mad because I know we as a country can do so much better for them. These babies are going through it. And when I say babies, I mean babies, because I tutor kids in elementary school.

I need to rant a little bit here and tell you what has been building up inside my mind. But if you need some actual actionable advice to support your child through state testing, skip to the end. I'll put a chapter marker to make it clear where to go.

I hate standardized testing. there's so much standardized testing going on in our schools, in particular our elementary schools, that it's just so inappropriate for children that age. Now, I'm not going to advocate in this video that all standardized tests need to disappeared.

There is a time, a place, and a purpose for tests like this.

Standardized tests are efficient. The data from them helps us track basic information in all kinds of ways. But it's gotten so excessive that the meaning of it has been lost. We're essentially just testing for the sake of testing.

In my first year of teaching, I taught 5th grade, and after that year, I knew I never wanted to teach in a testing grade again. That's going to be 3rd grade and up, where they're asked to take a standardized state test. I taught in a school where many of my students were performing below grade level, and the district was leaning in to support these students.

But the support came in the form of extra testing. They had state test prep, quarterly assessments, bi weekly quizzes and tests, and then a special test that some company sold the district for low performing schools that was given several times a year as well. With each test, the kids were punished with a full day of testing and then I had tons of extra meetings to reflect on the data we got from these tests. All I did that year was give tests, grade, reflect, and repeat.

Notice that the word teach is in the middle. Is not in that list. I remember at one point being so frustrated. I hadn't been able to finish teaching a math unit because the testing had interrupted so much of it. It completely defeated the point of testing. And I felt like my students would never improve on these tests because I didn't have time to teach them.

And for the kids, well, they were kids. They were 10 year olds who were supposed to be enjoying their final year of elementary school. My students were performing below grade level and they knew it. But their low performance was not their fault.

It was a failure of so many systems.

Before I dive into this though, if you're a former student of mine watching this, I want you to know I see you very much as an individual and you are not a statistic. You are capable and you are incredible and wherever you are today, I want you to know how proud I am of you, the way I was proud of you when you were in fifth grade.

I meant what I said about find me and email me I'm always going to be rooting for you and I want to hear from you.

Okay, though. Let's talk about statistics. I'm going to keep this very general because there are so many tests given in the United States. It's really hard to find overarching numbers. But generally speaking, when you look at standardized test scores, we see that white students, particularly those from middle to high income families, perform higher on state tests than children that are black or Hispanic or from low income families.

If you want to get a closer look at this, the Educational Opportunity Monitoring Project run by Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis is a really reliable place to dig into data.

But no matter where you're looking or what state you're focusing in on, it just sucks because if you look at the big picture, your performance in school can be predetermined by your background, meaning that we can take a good guess at how you'll do on a test before you've ever stepped foot into kindergarten.

But this has nothing to do with the biology of a child as much more to do with the history of systemic racism and weak social nets in our country. And if that just made you roll your eyes, you're sitting here saying people are lazy. They need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. That's exactly my point. You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don't have boots.

People in our country want to do well for themselves. They want to live financially stable lives and have children that thrive in school. But the odds are against a lot of families. Homework just isn't a priority when you have to work three jobs to keep a roof over your head. And that's exactly why instead of testing and testing children, we should make school a safe and useful place for children.

If the odds are stacked against you and you're at risk of dropping out of school, then you need hands to lift you up, not tests to make you feel worthless and anxious every day.

If you've got something on your mind as you're watching this video, I hope you comment it below. Let's start a conversation.

Standardized tests make kids hate school, and they make teachers hate teaching.

Teachers work so hard to build class communities, decorate beautiful classrooms that feel like a second home, build self esteem in their kids, build an environment where the kids are lifting each other up, and it's teamwork makes the dream work baby, and as soon as testing starts, it's all torn down.

But literally torn down. Classrooms have to take down all posters, decor, anything that has letters on it. So when kids come into class on the day of testing, they're not coming to their home away from home, the happy place they've been coming to all year.

They're coming into a space that is devoid of joy. And what's worse is the data we get from tests is often unreliable. Anyway, testing companies compete, claiming that they have the best new tests, the best new way to get data from kids.

And because of this, it's not an environment about what tests actually work. It becomes a competitive environment where there are people working in office buildings that are going to get a bonus this year because they sold this particular test to so many school districts. It's not uncommon for teachers, including me, to go through extensive training for tests just to give them for one year and have it completely disappear the next.

How can we really see if children are making progress if we're constantly moving the goalpost?

Oh, and by the way, black American women are killing it right now in higher education. So forget any stats from when they were in elementary school because they got it figured out.

Through all the considerations and the bids placed on tests and the training that teachers get, one thing that's not considered are the attention spans of children. Especially children that are 10 and under. When else would you ask an 8 year old wearing shoes that Santa bought them last Christmas to sit in a silent room for hours and answer questions?

It's just not appropriate. What if you have ADHD, where a fundamental part of the condition is struggling to focus on boring things? I don't know how many sample test passages you've read from these reading tests, but they're not exactly the most interesting things.

And even if it is interesting, there's no illustrations or anything to lure you into it. It's more a test of endurance and patience, than it is your ability to read. Don't we want children reading passages that are a little bit more interesting so they're motivated to actually try?

When they get to that difficult word, don't you want them to keep going because they're so interested they will infer and figure it out?

It takes an entire year of learning to prepare children for a state test. And then their entire year is summed up into just one day. A couple of hours of testing. How is that a fair balance? Teachers in schools will tell you again and again that they are trying to look at the picture of the whole child.

But when it comes down to making the decisions, they will get judged by a test score. And if you have a headache, if you're too anxious to focus, if English isn't your native language, if you misread something and you follow directions wrong, there's no second chance for you. There's no poster shouting how much you've grown this year.

And here's the real. Very often, these incredibly high stakes tests in elementary school mean nothing.

Sure, maybe at the middle and high school level, these tests are used to help place children into the right classes, but at the elementary school level, these tests, don't mean much at all, and yet teachers have to emphasize the importance of the test like it's going to be the most important day of a child's life. This way, we can send the test to office buildings where people sitting at conference tables will analyze the test scores of children that they'll never meet.

But there are some states where these tests mean something in elementary school. And in states where the tests do mean something, the stakes are ridiculously high. Like in North Carolina where I taught, would the third grade read to achieve law.

Lawmakers put a strict law in place for 3rd graders that failed the reading standardized test, saying that they must repeat the 3rd grade. This law has been in place since 2013, but not without its issues. The first year it was in effect, I was teaching, and I remember 40 percent of third graders in North Carolina qualified to be held back.

I remember the panic at my school as they started to realize that, like, most of the kids in the grade Would have to repeat third grade again. What were we going to do? All these incoming second graders and then half the third graders aren't even going to move on. So are we just going to have like 15 third grade teachers?

But after all that panic and all the figuring out and all the meetings with terrified, upset parents, in the end, most of them moved on to fourth grade anyway. They've since added a ton of loopholes to the law, but every year parents of third graders that score low on pre tests are harassed all year long, being warned that their child might repeat the third grade.

It creates this really high pressure environment, and I guarantee you, if your child is already struggling in school, getting told on daily basis that they might have to repeat the third grade is not going to help anything. It's just going to make them hate school and become cynical at a young age. You can't scare kids into learning how to read.

I'm ranting about this, but it's because I know we can hold our children to high expectations, understand trends in student performance, and lift children up to love school and succeed in a better way than this. And yet every year headlines are filled with the stress of state testing, the controversies of state testing, teachers who have been arrested for messing with the state test.

It's just a mess out here. Instead of what we have right now, let's test kids as necessary and use more observational testing. Project based learning, research assignments, one to one assessments, Conversations in class. letting the teacher observe a child work and realize that, yeah, they know how to add, and I don't need to sit them down and give them five questions.

I've seen them every day in class adding. Let teachers actually teach and let kids actually learn in school.

If you're with me so far, subscribe to my channel and like this video.

I spent two incredible years teaching at an international IB school in Vietnam. when I moved there, I was made fun of by the staff sometimes for how much the American teachers liked to test.

I learned real quick that an IB school, International Baccalaureate, really frowns upon testing.

They only used traditional tests and quiz and standardized tests as needed to track performance. The kids did a lot of projects, they did a lot of public speaking. I worked one on one with them all the time.

And I was able to build a class of really passionate kids that were excited to learn because we weren't freaking out about a test all the time. I still kept track of kids progress, I still graded report cards, I still ran small groups in my classroom based on students abilities and needs, but I was trusted as a teacher to see how my children were doing.

I'm all for accountability for both teachers and for students, but the testing environment we have in the United States now is just not it.

even down at the kindergarten level, there is so much testing going on. And one thing that really frustrated me was very often I knew that a child could do something, but I would still have to give them the test, sometimes multiple times, to prove that they could do it and still do it.

It was just overkill. Not to mention, in kindergarten, because the kids can't read independently, most of this testing is one on one, so it would take me weeks at a time to Get through testing .

But that's enough about me, and that's enough about the big picture of testing. What about you, the parent of a child taking these tests? What can you do to support them? The number one thing that you need to check in on is how much pressure you are putting on your child. Something you should keep in mind is that in elementary school, children often cannot study for these tests. It's more of a long goal to see if they've been consistent over the course of a year.

It's also important to know that very often it will take weeks or even months to get the scores back from these tests. Reward them after the test. You're not going to know how they scored for weeks anyway, so why not get them an ice cream now?

Understand that what they really need is a parent that is giving them a loving, supportive environment. Eat balanced meals together, have consistent bedtime the week leading up to the test, and if your child is stressed, listen to them, but also give them affirmations.

If your child's in a situation where they can study for the test, you need to teach them how to study. Kids do not know how to study, this is a skill so work together, make out a study plan, and avoid cramming. Studying for these tests is a long game that should happen at least a few nights out. the night before the actual test, maybe do a quick review and not much more than that. Give them space to actually just be relaxed and feel good about themselves.

If your child has a learning difference like ADHD, you should try and get them a 504 plan. Now this is a process you would ideally start at the beginning of the school year because it takes some meetings and some paperwork to actually get this going. you'll start by asking the teacher and reaching out to the special education teacher at the school as well.

This is where kids get accommodations like extra breaks, longer time to complete the test, or maybe they're testing in a small group or private room instead of with the whole class.

These accommodations can make a huge difference for kids that are experiencing a lot of anxiety or easily distracted.

If your child is being over tested, it is becoming, like, a really awful thing in your household. Maybe you're feeling over it. Read in between the lines. I heard every single year about parents refusing to let their child take the standardized test.

But, But before you do this, remember that you have to follow the rules to play the game. So if you are hoping your child will get into the gifted program next year or be selected for a special class, they typically will need test scores to be admitted. So walk with caution in this area. Another option here, though, is to pull your child out of public school.

Private schools often have far less testing. I didn't say no testing, but typically much, much less than what you'll see in the public school environment. Homeschooling might even be on the table, too.

If your child's teacher is consistently threatening the class that they may need to repeat the grade level, I think you can reach out gently and let them know that your child is stressed. Say something like this in the email.

Sharing anecdotes like this can help the teacher reflect on the message they are sending. Now, it might not be the best received, but it's your job to advocate for your child. You don't want them to go to school and feel scared every day. And if the teacher can just simply stop saying something or give your child a little bit of reassurance, that's going to make a world of difference.

And remember, your child is one of millions going through testing. It can feel like all the pressure is on them, but this is a rite of passage for children in America and across the world. There is a place for your child in this world, no matter how they score.

Your child has parents that love them and are going to meet them where they are at. We have this idea that children are set on a path from a young age, but very few people I know are living the life that they pictured for themselves as a child. We are dynamic in this world. Interesting, evolving people and life will continue to move forward for your child, no matter how they score on this test.

So let's help them see the light on the other side of this experience and keep moving forward.

Before we close out, here are a couple things that subscribers said about their experience with testing.

So now

So now I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts on standardized testing in the United States? Is your child under a lot of pressure right now? Do you think there's a way that we could do this better? Let us know in the comments below. I'd love to start a conversation about this.

Anyway, I don't think I ever introduced myself, my name's Natalie. This is Primary Focus, the parent's guide to elementary school. I'm here to help you out with all of those issues going on with school from the point of view of a teacher. I'm feeling a little bit better now that I got this rant out. Thanks for watching Primary Focus. My name's Natalie. I'll see you next time.