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The 5 Stages of High-Stakes Test Acceptance

We live in a time of high-stakes testing.  I am not one to debate the validity of these tests or the appropriateness of them.  I am an idealist in how I approach my day to day life in the classroom but I remain a realist.  I understand that I must prepare my students for them and I must begin to look towards what data they provide to help me plan for instruction.


So, I began the year surrounded by data.  As I continued to dig deeper, it became clear that my state identified group of "high" students weren't getting a year's worth of growth.  I was and still am devastated.  I would hope that any professional who cared about how they were judged would be devastated.  I honestly believed that I was providing instruction and feedback that would allow students to show a year's worth of growth. 


I then began the 5 stages of acceptance.  First, I got angry.  How dare someone use one test score to define all the hard work my students put into my Accelerated English class last year?  How dare they claim I wasn't effective because of one single snapshot on one single day?  Not to mention the fact that I am a Language Arts teacher not just a Reading teacher since we only use a reading test score to judge effectiveness.  So the heck with writing, speaking, listening, thinking and/or tech integration. Second, I got flippant.  Fine, I would just teach reading.  I would bore those kids to death with test prep and practice tests.  I'd show them! So what if the high kids were bored- I'd get those scores higher. Third, I got depressed.  I thought back to all my students and their hard work.  To all the hours spent reading, revising, editing, discussing, debating, etc... One test dashed all the hard preparation, execution and knowledge accumulated over a year. Fourth, I began to internalize and reflect.  What did this really tell me?  What could I do to continue to inspire kids but still show growth?  Finally, I accepted the data.


I accepted that the test was a snapshot. I accepted that no test can take away all the learning that was evidenced in the hard work of my students.  I accepted that I disagree with what qualifies as a year's worth of growth.    I accepted that people that think a one-time score from a test can be used to judge my effectiveness and the actual learning of my students.  I am in no way ignoring the data- can I do more? Yes.  Can I change what I do? Yes.  Can I continue to reflect and refine and find a happy medium between what I view as "real learning" and what our state considers "growth"?  Of course. 


But for now, I just accept that it is what it is. 

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Comment by Jeremy Evans on October 15, 2011 at 11:27pm
Joan, I had a similar experience this week. My principal came to me and told me that the value added scores from the state showed that I was an average teacher. I too went through the stages of acceptance. I have accepted that even though the tests show that I am average, I still view myself as an above average teacher.


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