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- Challenging Your Students on Assessments - March 23, 2016
In a few weeks, students in public schools and charter schools across New York State will take hours of state assessments in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Teachers are nervous, parents are frustrated, and students are indifferent. The students' indifference is what scares the teachers and administrators of charter schools because our very survival depends on those scores. But we try not to put too much stress on the students to do well. So we tell the kids, "This isn't for a grade. These scores don't affect your report card." And then we act surprised when the students don't take the tests seriously.
You may have seen a video making the rounds on social media the last couple of weeks. It features motivational speaker, Eric "The Hip Hop Preacher" Thomas, reprimanding a body of students at Vashon High School in St. Louis (watch the video here). Thomas was a homeless, high school dropout who eventually fought his way back and earned his Ph.D. from Michigan State. While he was speaking at the school (where 70% of the students are reading below grade level), some students began to make jokes and interrupt his speech. And he let them have it. During the first minute of his rant, I cheered. Yes, this is the same indifference and disrespect teachers battle daily!
But then I began to cry because Eric Thomas told truths many are afraid to utter.
I'm a grown man, and I'm embarrassed that they talk about y'all. And know why I'm embarrassed? Because what they don't know is that you ain't even trying when you take the test! You didn't give your best. They think you dumb; you ain't dumb!
And you gonna come in and tell you can't take the test? No, you can take a test. But when you take the test, you barely take the test. I challenge you to go on in there and get that doggone piece of paper and that pencil and do your best. I challenge you. I challenge you to go to class and act like you got some sense.
Nothing hurts a teacher more deeply than seeing a student choosing not to work to their fullest potential or to watch a student choose apathy and disrespect over pride and education. Without getting into whether the Common Core assessments are age-appropriate and unfair, I challenge all my fellow educators to continue to show your students how fiercely you love them and how passionately invested you are in their futures. And in turn, challenge your students to not just take the test but to do their best because we know they can.