By Nick McDaniels — In switching grades this year from 9th to 10th grade English, I have also switched from teaching a non-tested, though still data-driven, course, to the course that culminates in the State of Maryland’s High School Assessment (HSA) for English.
This means, at a time when my evaluations, which are tied to my pay, are going to be partially tied to student performance, I am in a position where more data will be collected on me as a teacher than has been in previous years. This whole situation is designed to motivate me as a teacher to work harder to ensure that my students will “pass” the test.
I am motivated, but not by the money, not by the evaluations, not by the pride, but rather because, with all of this attention given to testing, I want my students to learn more and be tested less. I want the tests to be gone. But what I want isn’t realistic pending an educational revolution. So for the time being, I need to start wanting new things as it relates to my students and testing.
So after tremendous thought and reflection, here’s want I want for now:
I want to help my students realize that tests are the gate-keepers that keep them from learning. They are things that limit their ability to gain real knowledge, to be interested in school, to be able to do the things that the students who they will be in class with in college will be able to do, think dynamically and critically.
With that in mind, I want to help my students realize that until they pass the test, they will not be given the chance to learn freely and passionately, that the test, therefore, is a floor not a ceiling, and that once the test is passed a whole new world of possibilities will open for them.
I have always believed that teaching my students as much as I could as well as I could would bring good test results. That thinking however, is still viewing the test as a ceiling, while a prideful notion for not teaching directly to the test, it is still limiting students because it leaves too much to chance. Now I must explicitly share my wants with my students and gain their buy-in immediately. I want them to pass the test so that we can learn about other things that are more expansive. We are going to start the year with the test and move beyond it as quickly as possible so that we can learn the things that will be really important to them in the future, those things that do not involve a sharpened #2 pencil.
I have never been the teacher that systematically builds student skills until they are test-ready. I am still not that teacher. But I am now the teacher that will ensure that students are test-ready by prepping them as early as possible and ensuring that they are motivated only to pass the test so that they can put the test in the past. I will do my part to “move my students scores” by moving them out of the way of their education as soon as possible.