I am a public school teacher in Oberlin, Ohio. As I do year after year, I had my fifth-graders write editorials for the Newspaper in Education contest sponsored by our local Chronicle-Telegram newspaper. And as I always do, I gave the students free choice to choose their topics and to come up with their own polished submissions.
When so many of them started writing about testing, I freaked out a little because prior to this month’s AIR testing, I had rarely even mentioned the topic to them, refusing to stress them out about the upcoming three weeks of testing. I sent some of their work to our principal with a note that said, in so many words, “Holy smokes, look at what these kids are saying. I promise that I haven’t been stressing them out about these tests!” She wrote back saying she thought their submissions sounded just fine.
I’m so thankful to have a principal who values our students’ feelings.
When I talked to the kids about the testing, I told them how surprised I was by their topic choices and asked why they were feeling so worried. After all, I told them, I had barely mentioned the topic and told them I’d be the last person to put pressure on them or try to stress them out. One student told me, “You are working with the wrong kids, Mrs. Randall. You don’t have to stress us out. We stress ourselves out enough for all of us.”
They then started sharing stories about last year’s PARCC test, when they tested on and off from February through May when they were in 4th-grade. They shared about how scared they were that they wouldn’t pass the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee reading test the year before that and then fail the entire year. Ohio legislation is insane.
But worst of all, one student said, “This is the third new kind of test we’ve had in three years. When will Ohio get this right?”
This same student was the one who took it upon himself to go to the Ohio Department of Education website on his Chromebook and research his topic and find out that some schools were able to still do paper/pencil tests, and he was pretty upset that he couldn’t.
I sent a note to the newspaper staff member about all their submissions and she told me to please not censor their writing, but to send it all in. She wanted to see it all.
Today, I opened the newspaper supplement to these two student submissions ruling a whole spread. Apparently, the judges heard them loud and clear and felt their words needed to be heard by our community.
All this high-stakes testing is really starting to take a toll on kids. When will our legislature hear and care about their voices?
Each child in my class is the SAME child who has been forced to sit through high-stakes testing year after year after year. When will enough be enough?