CST Blues

May 2, 2012

Or, Why I Will Feel like a Failure Every Spring

My freshmen took their English CSTs yesterday, and last night I got a bad case of the CST Blues.  I was a basket case—puddle-on-the-floor basket case.

I’m not against standardized tests; as a general rule, I’m a huge fan.  I appreciate the accountability, and the focus and drive that it can provide to administrators.  There are basic things that I think students should know and be able to do in each of their subjects, and the CSTs (and like tests) make a good stab at them.  They’re not perfect, but they’re okay.  And, as my master teacher told me, meeting the standards should be the easy part.  It’s the passing on a life-long love of reading and learning that’s difficult.

But, as I look over the standards that my students tested on this week, I know for certain that I’m not going to have more than 50% proficiency (>60%), if that.  My students, for the most part, came into high school below grade level (ranging from 3rd-8th grade reading/writing skills).  I’ve been a good teacher, but that’s not enough.  Effective teachers don’t teach one year’s worth of material.  They teach 1.5-2 years worth of material in a year, and they also motivate and instill a love of learning (while battling reduced budgets (i.e. no novels provided to students) and poor home and community support systems)

So, as I look at my students, as they traipse into my classroom this morning (lured by bagels, nutella, and OJ) to tell me that they “had that test”, “it was super-easy!”, “I kicked it’s ass!” … I’m sad.  I know that there was way more I could have done.  I know that I was clueless as to how to teach some of the standards.  I know that a couple of them failed before they opened the test booklet, weighed down by the shear number of words they wouldn’t understand.  I know that I wasn’t always consistent, that I caved to the occasional busy work, and that I didn’t always differentiate like I should have.

Even though I was here every single day, didn’t spend my class sessions texting while my students completed worksheets, and prepared upwards of 750 hours of mostly engaging and thoughtful lessons … my students are still way below grade level.

My only comfort, right now, is that I’m slightly above average.  And, that is small comfort to a driven woman who is firmly convinced this is her vocation.  I feel like many of my students as they opened their test booklets:

The standards are high and are where I’m supposed to be, and I know I have no possible way of meeting them fully.

So what is one to do?

Be sad and disappointed in oneself.  But, also remember that most of my freshmen haven’t dropped out and that my seniors are more ready for college than they were a year ago.

… and start planning for next year.

Ms. Card-Hyatt


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