Teaching is a task that should come from the heart and reach to the heart of children. After that, there is a test. The Standardized testing that goes on in every state in the union is keystone to student placement and, some would argue, future achievement.
Teaching “from the heart” is crucial at all times in my career and sometimes I need to take a quiet walk or something akin to that to remember it. At the same time, teachers are valued on the basis of their test scores in many schools and in many districts that I have been familiar with. That’s why I chose to write today about addressing low scores.
Low standardized test scores are not an indicator of talent, either by the student or the teacher. Rather, they indicate incorrect focus. Many teachers go through their day with a vision of some sort. One teacher might actually aim for high test scores and teach as closely to the test as possible. Another may see socialization skills as a more important focus and teach through those as a lens. It varies as much as teachers do. While it is important to have values and teach from your heart, we as teachers have to remember the “steel horse” we ride: the standards test. If our heart isn’t in it, we will not succeed but with our without “heart,” we won’t make it as teachers in this millennium without decent to great scores on our standardized testing.
When you get low data from a test as a teacher you can feel overwhelmed. It can even feel as if you are failing at your career. The truth is, with a little strategic planning based on the data (your best friend) you can get the “correct focus” that turns the dreaded low scores into the tool they should be to score high. There have been years when all my kids ever scored was high, there were others when the kids just never seemed to “get” certain standards on the test. Now I aim for high scores that are taught “from the heart.” I suppose in a perfect world I wouldn’t care about the test and just give kids what I feel they need to be well-rounded 4th graders. Unfortunately, this world is not perfect so to a certain extent, it is back to the old drawing board to make a way toward student achievement on the standards test. Work with what you have.