Testing in Florida: View from a former teacher

The following post is shared, with permission, from Meredith Jewell – a former public high school math teacher in Florida who is now teaching in the Philippines. Meredith is a staunch supporter of public education who hopes her story might bring to light the notion that Florida does not have to use tests in the way it currently does. Children can be assessed, and teachers and schools can be held accountable, without the high stakes currently in place. 

Two of my classes took the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) test today. I walked in to the room and was given a paper to read. I didn’t have to attend proctor training or sign any kind of disclosure. As my kids worked, I circulated the room and looked at the problems on their screens. Some were easy, some were not. Most of them just asked a question. There were no poorly worded questions. There were no issues with the correct answer not being there. There were no “click all that apply” items. There were no graphing problems where they had to plot points and graph lines using some foreign application. Everything was straight forward.

They worked hard and got their raw scores immediately after finishing the test. A few even had to stay until 3 (we end at 2:35) to finish. The MAP is untimed. Afterwards some of them asked me questions about items they saw and I talked to them about these topics and gave them examples. Some rejoiced that they were correct, others felt the agony of defeat.

My students will take the MAP again in the spring. The hope is that they will show growth. Now that I have a better idea of what they will see I can focus my instruction on those standards.

Many people think that I am against testing, and I assure you that this is not the case. I oppose poorly written, invalid tests used to judge and punish educators. I oppose having one test be the determining factor for promotion. I oppose having students stress out about a test that counts as 30% of their year end grade, a grade which they won’t know until months after the fact. I oppose not having adequate prep materials for high stakes testing. I oppose the disrespect that teachers are handed and expected to accept.

For all of you with children in the public schools of Florida, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that your children are being used like pawns in the state DOE’s sick game of test and punish. I’m sorry that your child’s teacher hates these tests as much as you do but can’t speak out for fear of retaliation. I’m sorry that your children are being expected to process material above grade level, and then feel like failures when they fall short. I’m sorry that you will have to continue to fight these battles.

There are better ways to run schools and to teach children. I live it daily. I teach at a private IB school now so, yes, there are many differences. I cannot express enough how truly blessed I feel to have this opportunity with these children. They have a zest for learning that is inspiring. They challenge me daily with their questions. Most times I have the answers, other times, I don’t. That’s when the real learning happens. It’s magical.

I felt no stress as I left school today. It will be business as usual in class tomorrow with the exception of a few more lingering MAP stumpers, I’m sure. And even though I still have some school work to do tonight and I will be exhausted by the time my head hits the pillow, I can’t wait to get back in my classroom.

Will you help us take a stand to save our public schools and restore them to a time when tests were used to help, not harm, our classrooms? 

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