To My Amazing Third Graders,
This week I have to give you a test. I know that most of you have never taken a standardized test before. I know that most of you probably don’t even know what the term standardized test means. I know that many of you will look at the first page and not know what it means when it says “Please bubble in your name.” I know many of you will look at the length of the test and feel your stomach drop. I know that many of you will feel overwhelmed that you have to do this for two days now, and again for another two days in May. I know many of you will raise your hand to ask me questions, and will not understand why I cannot help you. I know that you will try your best. You always do. I know that even though you tried your best, some of you will doubt your own intelligence after taking this test. I know many of you will wonder why I am making you take this test. I want you to know that it is not my choice. I have to give these tests to you.
I do not believe that these tests do what they were created to do. I do not believe that these tests will tell anyone about the kind of learner you are, or the kind of person you have become. I do not believe that this test will help me improve my teaching, or help our school best support its teachers. I do not believe that filling in bubbles can give an adequate picture of your growth this year, or measure my success as a teacher. I want you to know that I’m sorry. I want you to know so many things before you pick up those pencils.
I want you to know that this test cannot show anyone WHO you are. It will never be able to show the most important things that make you so special. It will not show your ability to make a friend laugh when they are having a hard day. It will not show how you emptied your piggy bank to give to those who are less fortunate. It will not show how you can collaborate with your peers, and make everyone in a group feel valued. It will not show your willingness to take academic and social risks. It will not show your deep empathy for your friends, your peers and complete strangers. It will not show how you have learned to participate in a discussion, listening to others and building off of their ideas. It will not show your determination to stand up for what is right, even if you are the only one standing. It will not show your creativity and how you use it to share yourself with others. It will not show what a curious thinker, creative problem-solver, and fierce friend you have become. Even though the test doesn’t treat these things like they matter, please know that THEY MATTER. They matter more than anything else!
Tests have a way of making you forget about all of the amazing qualities you possess. If you ever find yourself losing confidence, or doubting your abilities, please raise your hand. I will come over to your desk and remind you of how amazing you are. I will remind you of how hard you work every day. I will remind you of how you give everything you have to meet the high expectations I hold for you, and that you have learned to hold for yourself. I will remind you of what a positive contribution you are to our class and greater society every day you are a part of it. I can remind you because I know you. This test does not.
I’m sorry that I have to put you through this, and I hope that you can forgive me. Our experiences together are so much more than a series of tests, and I hope those are the memories you take away from this year, and not the emptiness that comes with filling in bubbles. Now, let’s get through this together so we can get back to the important learning that has been so unfortunately disrupted.