When we return from spring break, my 5th graders will be starting their PARCC tests. For four days, we will time that we could be learning, instead taking seven tests that range in time from 60 – 90 minutes each. The following is the letter that I plan to send home to my students’ parents on Monday. I share it here because I know so many teachers experience similar thoughts around this time of year.
This week, your child will take the PARCC tests. For many children and parents, I know that these tests can cause a bit of anxiety. I want to assure you that your children are ready for these tests. I say this NOT because we have spent weeks practicing taking tests. NOT because we have spent hours of our days learning skills that will help them to do well only on a standardized test. NOT because we have spent time learning tricks that will help them to figure out the right answer on a multiple choice question.
They are ready because we have learned how to be learners this year. They are ready because we have followed our interests and our passions and we have learned how to use them in order to make the world a better place. They are ready because we have learned how to think critically, to ask questions, to search for answers to our questions, to support our claims with evidence in order to make them more valid and worthy of being heard, to think about issues from multiple perspectives and to think about what voices are missing in order to then work to seek those voices out and amplify them. They are ready because we have learned that challenging tasks are not something we cannot handle. They are ready because they each believe that they have the ability to shine, each in his or her own way.
Just because they are ready, however, does not mean that these tests are ever going to be able to accurately reflect all that your children have learned how to do this year. These tests cannot possibly tell us the things that we all know are most important. These tests are one small measure of something that someone, who has never met your child, has decided are important. So when your children come home today, and for the rest of the week, feel free to ask them how the tests went. But, please, also ask them these other questions.
Ask them how they helped someone who needed help this year.
Ask them how they went out of their way to show kindness to another human being.
Ask them what they have learned about themselves as a learner this year.
Ask them how they found books that they love and shared those books with others.
Ask them how they have learned how to use writing to change the world.
Ask them how they have learned new things and shared that knowledge beyond the walls of our classroom.
Ask them how they have connected with other people.
Ask them how they have learned to fight for the rights of others.
Ask them how they have learned how to use the stories of others to better understand the lives that others live and the struggles they have to deal with.
Ask them how they have used what they have learned to make this world a better place.
Ask them what they have learned about the dangers of judging another person before having the child to hear that person’s story.
Ask them how they have heard feedback from other people and used it to make their work better and make themselves better.
Ask them how they have stepped up to challenging tasks even when they were not certain how they would ever possibly complete that task.
Ask them how they have made another person feel better about him/herself.
Ask them how they have learned to listen to the opinions of others and allow the thoughts of others to challenge and grow their own understanding.
Ask them how they have challenged themselves.
Ask them how they have learned how to disagree respectfully.
Ask them how they have learned to be a part of a community.
Ask them how they have learned to recover from moments of failure.
Ask them how they have become a better person this year.
Ask them these questions, because these are the real indicators of their success in this world. The answers to these questions will reveal so much more to you, and to me, than any test ever could. And because I feel confident that each of your children will be able to answer these questions in beautiful ways, I know that they will do just fine with any challenge that they encounter. Including the tests they will be forced to take this week.
As always, please let me know if there is anything that I can do here at school to help make this week easier for your child.