Testing and Stress

I continue to applaud everyone in the District on our efforts to improve our academic performance. As I’ve written many times in the past, I know that our RCS students can do better on our Math and ELA measures, as well as many of our Regents exams. When we look at similar school districts, with students much like our own, they are achieving more. We said this long before all of the new accountability measures came out from the New York State Education Department.

Improving our academic performance is important. Why? So that our students can have an edge over all of the other students in NYS with whom they will compete for college entrance and careers. Isn’t it important to make the most of the time we have with our students? To have high expectations for ourselves and for our students? Simply put, YES. And we’re going to get there.

However, we must remember that academic performance is NOT the full measure of every child. Teachers and parents and administrators and worst of all, STUDENTS, are overly stressed about the results on our local achievement measure, iReady. Listen to me. The common core curriculum in Math and ELA, grades K-8, is MUCH MORE RIGOROUS than our prior NYS Learning Standards. If your child isn’t achieving as well as you’d like, it doesn’t mean your kid is stupid. We cannot allow our students to walk away with that idea. We must be encouraging and say, “Wow! This is harder than what I’ve seen in the past, more than your older sister was expected to do at this grade level. I’m proud of you for trying so hard. It will get easier.”

It will. And we’ll take care of our students in grades 5-8 who are most caught in the middle of a huge shift in expectations for learning. And we’ll weather whatever storm comes next from NYSED, together. Teachers can’t perform if they are terrified they’ll lose their jobs, students can’t do their best if their self confidence is shot, and we cannot become a school that is solely about testing.

It’s up to each of us to keep it all in perspective. Realize we’ll figure it out together, we aren’t going to suddenly fire teachers over test scores. Stop stressing out the students. Why? Because your highest achieving students are freaking out and your lowest achieving students will give up. Neither works.

Continue to create a comfortable, encouraging classroom environment in which you hold our students to high expectations while helping each to thrive. Teach the common core curriculum, utilize your class time to advantage, work hard. Love our students. Sound familiar? That’s because I’ve been saying it all year. Just another reminder that we started this accountability journey as a great school district. We’re just working to be better.

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