Test Anxiety: What do we teach?

cc licensed flickr photo shared by albertogp123

Recently the Fraser Institute released the results of the Report Card on British Columbia’s Elementary Schools: 2011 Edition. This report consists of ranking schools in comparison to each other based on standardized tests – the Foundation Skills Assessments Tests. In this type of report there are bound to be perceived winners and losers despite the suggestion that the results must be interpreted carefully. The reality is that most media, and in turn the public,  focus on the top and bottom schools. Further, it seems to suggest that the good schools obviously have ‘the answer’ while the schools that struggle need to pull up their socks. The reality of the situation is quite a bit different. Upon closer examination, beyond the narrow focus of what has been co-opted into a type of ‘high stakes’ test, a very different picture of the true quality of a school emerges.

I am the parent of a student who once attended Raymer Elementary – one of the lower ranking schools. I know that to judge a school using the FSA results is both unfair and demoralizing. A letter to the editor was published this past week in a local Kelowna newspaper explaining this unfairness, but I have yet to find it anywhere online. I’ve received permission from the author to post it here so a fuller picture can emerge. Here is the full text of the letter:

What do we teach at Raymer?

We teach empathy and understanding towards the 50% of the students in the class who don’t speak English at home, but are still willing to try their best on a government exam.

What do we teach at Raymer? We teach how to show tolerance and compassion towards the classmate who has not had enough to eat at home and is angry with the world!

What do we teach at Raymer? We teach by showing how love and safety still exist in a world that sometimes forgets that little eyes see all.

What do we teach at Raymer? We teach honesty and forgiveness towards inappropriate behaviours.

What do we teach at Raymer? We teach diversity since there is a big chance that your best friend may move away during the school year and you will have to find another best friend from the several that will join your class some time throughout the year.

What do we teach at Raymer? We teach that the values of life are worth more than the value of your bank account.

What do we teach at Raymer? We teach reading, writing, mathematics, science, language, socials, physical education, art, music, drama, problem solving, personal planning, computer, creative thinking, library, spelling, and nutrition.

What don’t we teach at Raymer?  We don’t teach the children how to judge a person by only one action, activity, or test!

Too bad the members of the Fraser Institute did not go to Raymer! What a wonderful school it is!

D. Zerr  (on behalf of the staff of Raymer Elementary School)

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2 responses to “Test Anxiety: What do we teach?

  1. Ah! This post made me cry. Since when did schools become less about the child and more about how good everyone looks on a ‘league table’? The Australian Government in their ‘wisdom’ have created a website (but not a league table – yeah, right) called the MySchool website. It’s one of the first places parents go to find out which school to send their child to in Australia now. Sad, because a school (as demonstrated by this letter in your post) is so much MORE than test results. And my colleagues are gobsmacked when I announce that I’d get more job satisfaction these days working at a department store than I would in a school. Sad but true.

  2. Thanks for your comment – it’s sad that the ‘powers that be’ seem to think that high stakes testing is somehow a valid measure, and sadder still that it’s marketed to parents. D. Zerr (Darlene) taught my daughter Grade 4 at Raymer, and Willa attended Raymer from K right through to Grade 6. I was always impressed with the care and concern for others that was at the heart of Raymer, and have no doubt that it has made a lifelong impression on the kind of person Willa is and the values she holds.
    Please feel free to share the post (or letter) with Australian educators and parents. I think the Raymer staff would be proud to know their work was meaningful to others!

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