Think Outside the Bubble

You know my name, not my story.

That seems to be a popular thing to say these days.  However, I’d like to make a quick modification on this saying.  Here:

You know my number, not my story.

Because at this point, the state doesn’t even care about your name.

My name is Vanessa.  I’m in 7th grade at a public middle school in New York State.  Just recently, my school had to take the state tests.  The three days and the 4.5 hours of ELA’s, and the other three days and 4.5 hours of the State Math Test.  That’s 9 hours of testing we had to go through.  540 minutes of sitting and taking a test that is looked at to determine how smart we are, and how well our teacher teaches us.  32,400 seconds of staring at the clock.

Do the math.

All of this testing is unnecessary and harmful to the students around us.  The state thinks it’s helping our students, but it’s NOT!  Besides, it’s an inaccurate representation of our abilities and intelligence!  I know this firsthand, being a student myself!  Ask any teacher at my school they will know I am an excellent writer.  My essays excel, and I’m sort of what people call an “over achiever” or a “try-hard”.  Yet somehow I bombed the writing portion of the ELA’s.  And I know exactly why.

A lot of the questions make no sense.  Especially this year.  Most of them are opinions!  There was one question in my book that asked, “What line from the story shows the meteorite as being powerful?”  ALL OF THE ANSWERS SHOWED THE METEORITE AS BEING POWERFUL!  It was simply a matter of the state’s opinion on which line best described it as powerful.  How am I supposed to know what the state is thinking????  Well, the answer to the question was something about how when the meteorite hit the ground, the the boy in the story fell down.  As for the extended response questions, they were wordy and confusing.  This year they upped the level for each grade, which I guess meant making the questions impossible to answer by asking for two supporting lines from the story but only actually putting one line into the story.  And I can assure you, finding these lines doesn’t take much brain power.  But somehow this year finding the lines ate up everybody’s time, which is why I had trouble finishing that portion of the test, and also why I was left with only ten minutes to write a 4-5 paragraph essay.  The questions on my tests were customized to fit the reading and comprehension level of an advanced 7th or eighth grader.  The state should be considering that students of the same age are not at the same reading level!  There are many different types of kids out there with different abilities at different paces.  Just because a student didn’t do well on the test doesn’t mean they are not smart enough.  It could mean that they are a little slower than the expected student is.  It could mean they are a late bloomer, or maybe even that they have difficult situations in their lives that keep them from being able to learn as well as the other students.  Therefore, giving all of the students an extremely advanced test is an unfair and inaccurate method of determining a teacher’s teaching skill and a student’s intelligence.

Another reason why these test aren’t right is because of stress.  We are humans.  We have lives.  We have stuff that happens in our lives.  Someone might have had an awful night last night, and then they are expected to come to school and take a huge test that determines whether or not their teacher is going to get fired.  These tests are STRESSFUL.  Kids do not work well under stress.  They freak out, and they can’t think, and next thing you know time is up and they have a really low grade  This kid might even be a straight A student.  This type of stress on a student is unhealthy and can lead to many problems.

Another example of how inhumane these tests are follows.  Somewhere in the state, a third grade girl was out of school for a number of days due to sickness and a death in the family.  That death being her dad.  She comes back to school, depressed and miserable, and they sit her down and have her make up the tests she missed AND take the ones from that day.  Doesn’t that seem just a little more than a lot extreme?

Finally, for the teachers.  Using giant tests as a way to determine the good teachers from the bad is not the best way to go.  There are plenty of other ways to evaluate a teacher!  Student averages, for example.  People could also sit in to classes more often.  There are SO many better ways to do this than have us kids sit through hours of unnecessary torture.  Another thing:  Teachers always complain about not being able to get through all of the curriculum in a year.  They can’t do this because they have to take two months off for the tests!  A month to teach us how to take them, and two weeks to actually take them.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  I kind of just want to get through the school year and learn how to write an FPR or APE response without having to write them twelve times in two days.

These test do not define us.  These tests SHOULD not define us.  We should be more than a three digit number on a chart.  I am not what my test is.  The state doesn’t know me.  They know my number.  They know what I marked on a piece of paper.  But they don’t know who I am, or what goes on in my brain.

I’m working to fight against these test.  We need to speak out and be heard. The students of today are America’s future tomorrow.  Don’t you think it’s just a little sad that we walk into Kindergarten with more enthusiasm and imagination than when we graduate high school?  The tests ruin student’s eagerness to learn.  It crushes our creativity and interest.  Do we really want our future to be run by tests and numbers?

Join me in speaking against State Testing.  Spread the word.