If you’ve read my blog for very long, hopefully you’ve been able to see how honest I try to be. I try to share my successes as well as my failures. I try to write to hopefully inspire but also show that everything isn’t always perfect.
In the state of Texas our state exam is called the STAAR test. In 5th grade the students take the Math and Reading test up to 3 times to pass it so they can move onto 6th grade.
Like most schools in the state of Texas, it seems all we do is talk about this exam. It’s drilled into the kids. We wear STAAR shirts, we offer STAAR incentives, we drill and drill and drill the “importance” of this exam. I have tried to be different. I hardly ever even mention the STAAR test. I refuse to teach test formatted questions. My students learn through hands-on, inquiry based, and project based learning.
Last year after the first administration of the Math STAAR my students scored 96% passing! I was thrilled!
This year I have worked equally as hard. All eyes have been on me. And despite me not mentioning the test, refusing to celebrate STAAR, and choosing not to focus on test formatted questions; I still get caught up in it all.
You see we just got our scores back from our exam two weeks ago. I had 91% passing! Which yes is great. But I’m not ready to celebrate. Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed. I focus so hard on showing you don’t have to teach a test to see success on exams and instead I dropped 5% from the previous year’s scores. I was also “beat” by other schools who do focus heavily on test prep.
I’m a perfectionist. And before I go any further I know that one test does not determine my teaching skills. It doesn’t work for every kid. In my heart, I know that. But I guess it’s one of those moments where everyone around you is defining your success based on a score. And I definitely could feel disappointment from some around me when I didn’t match the previous year’s scores. Or better yet, get better.
I know I worked hard. I know my students worked hard. And I am so proud of them for that.
I’ve spent almost a week even trying to put this blog post into words because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to express myself.
In the end, I am so proud of the work my students put forth. I may have dropped a few percentage points, but I try to be an optimist. And I will choose to see this not as a judgement of my teaching skills, but as just another moment to learn from.
In the end I tell my students that only they can define failure. My students know that if you gave it your best and you did the best you could then you didn’t fail. This test will not define them, and I have to take those same words to myself. But this is what our education system has created. A test that puts so much pressure and stress on not only our students but our teachers.
I can’t wait until next year, when I’m the Principal of Navasota Intermediate. Where we will NOT celebrate an exam. We will not even mention STAAR. The day will come where they have to take the STAAR test, and it will be like just any other day they need to take an exam. My students will come to school to learn. Not to pass an exam.
Today celebrate hard work. Celebrate successes. There’s always a silver lining and there’s always room for growth.