This third grade teacher responded to the post and comments about the heavy emphasis on testing students in third grade.

She wrote:

I thought that maybe a third grade teacher in NC should weigh in on this. I can only speak for what is occurring in my county, but here is what I am up against: I have to complete all reading 3D data within an approximate 2 week period. This involves a three minute fill in the blank test (whole class), three one minute timed reads with three one minute retells of each read, and a diagnosis of a students independent reading level by testing their reading, writing, and oral comprehension of leveled passages. The writing consists of two questions which are scored against a rubric and you must take the LOWER of the two scores. This must be completed on every student in my class.

In addition, our school opted to give EVERY child the portfolio assessment. Why? Because there are many reasons why a child might fail an EOG test. Some may not be good test takers, some may be sick, some may misalign the test, others may have something happen to them or their family but their parents decide to send them to school anyway because of the test. I cannot tell you how many children have been sent into my room feverish, throwing up, having little to no sleep due to a family emergency, etc. Therefore, every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, our students will take an assessment based on whatever standard the county has stated we are testing on that particular week at least until we get to a review week where students will be retesting on the tests they failed.

Janna, I read your post. I analyze the data and look at which students need remediation but honestly, right now, all I see is testing with this: portfolio assessments; benchmark testing, Reading 3D testing and AR testing. Let’s not forget these are children. Little people with strengths and weaknesses. Children who have dreams and aspirations. Children who develop at a highly individualized rate that cannot be changed by any state test or legal mandate. Children who want to have FUN. Children who should be having fun while they are learning. What areas do you excel at-the ones who are fun to you or laborious?

At some point I am still supposed to TEACH literacy. Whole and small group-with rigor and engaging activities. In small groups I should be spiraling back to the necessary weak skills that my students may need extra help with and challenge those students who need the challenge. Do not forget that I have to make sure that all students are staying on task while the small group and independent testing is occurring. ALL of this is to occur within a two hour block of literacy. Our school also uses accelerated reader so the students then test on the books they read independently because they need to meet their AR goal. I am also held accountable if that goal is not met by the majority of my class.

Afterwards, I need to continue to teach math, science and social studies lessons, make sure students have opportunities to interact with technology (I have 3 outdated computers in the classroom), lunch, recess (which is mandated as well let’s not forget), and usually fine arts taught by a specialist. During that time, I am supposed to plan with colleagues, grade the portfolio assessments, grade, meet with parents, make phone calls, and if I am lucky, use the bathroom.

You want to talk about the test? The test is skewed to white upper/middle class students who have had certain experiences. My students have never seen the ocean. They have never touched a seashell before my class. These students don’t have gardens, haven’t seen deer in the wild and many of them don’t ride in cars because their parents don’t have one. Their parents don’t talk to them. Not because they don’t care, but because they are working two and three jobs just to try to survive. These babies are being watched by slightly older babies who use Disney and Nick as babysitters. My students need to be immersed into museums and places in our state. They need to feel the sand between their toes at a beach and feel the cold mountain air blow in their face. They need to visit a real farm, not a pumpkin patch and smell the earth when it has been freshly turned by a plow. They need to see works of fine art and go to the symphony. They need to go to a fine dining restaurant and learn the proper etiquette for eating out. You want to equalize the gap? THAT is how to do it. NOT through testing. They need experiences.

I have two important questions. Where is the student accountability in this? Also where is parent accountability? When you have students who flat refuse to do what you ask them, how is that MY fault? I have had classes where the majority of my students were labeled oppositional defiant, autistic, ADHD, bi-polar, etc. I have had students in my class who couldn’t speak English or even read in their native language, but I am supposed to get them ON grade level? Did I teach them? YES. Did they grow? YES. However, try as I might, they did not get on grade level. I never quit teaching them, but what happens when teachers no longer want little Johnny or Susie because it affects their salary? What about the parents who make excuses for their children’s lack of performance? Explain to me how it is my fault that they have not raised their child in a manner that would allow them to succeed. How is it my fault they argue and scream at the teacher instead of doing their work. How is it my fault that they refuse to complete assignments? Parents blame the teacher because obviously it is their fault-the legislature says so. When teachers can no longer teach, when they no longer have the respect of society, how long do you think they will stay in their job? I guess we will see soon.

I LOVE my students, I LOVE teaching, but what I am doing now is a pale comparison to what I used to do and I would not classify it as teaching. I spend hundreds of dollars a month on my class. Money as a single mom that I really don’t have, but if I don’t spend that money, my students don’t have pencils, paper, or tissues or other supplies. Parents feel it is MY responsibility to provide these supplies. Schools cannot give out what they do not have, budgets have been cut and schools have to make choices between staff and supplies. I love North Carolina. This is the only state that I have ever lived in and I cannot imagine leaving but I will be hard pressed to continue to do what I love because I cannot pay my bills. I had to tell my high school senior that I have no money to help her with college. Not even for her textbooks. She doesn’t have her driver’s license because I have been unable to afford to put her on my insurance. I will very soon be faced with the choice of moving to another state or choosing a new career. I never thought that my own state would force me into that kind of decision.