The Results are In

"Mom! I've got some great news!" Landry bounded out of the car running toward me after school today. 
I knew instantly what she was going to say. STAAR results came in last week, and I've been resisting the urge to email her teacher to find out the scores. I had to wait patiently for this moment just like all parents. 

"I didn't just pass all 3 tests!! I got COMMENDED on both reading and math!!! I only missed 3 out of 56 questions on math!!" We hugged and did our dance of joy right there in the parking lot. The reading results were not surprising to me, but MY kid did well on math? She obviously gets that from her Daddy. Take THAT, test anxiety!!! 

Since I blogged about Landry's pre-STAAR struggle, I think this follow-up post is necessary to share our happy ending. Of course, the Mom side of me wants to brag about my brilliant daughter and use my blog as a platform of pride. All of those prayers, deep breathing exercises , and the greasy McGriddle obviously payed off. You go, Lan!!!!! 

But I'm not just Landry's Mom. I'm also an educator, and I admit that a part of me feels very hypocritical celebrating a system that I despise because my daughter came out on the winning side. 

Now--don't get me wrong. I am not trying to take anything away from Landry, and she will never know about this blog post until she stumbles on it one day while doing a Google search as a mortified teenager. I am officially separating myself...I am no longer Landry's Mom writing this post. I am an educator who just wants ALL kids to be able to feel successful and celebrate with the dance of joy in the school parking lot. Every kid deserves this moment. But I don't know if they will all get it under our current testing system.

Unfortunately, I work in a school that although we saw some gains from last year, we did not improve as much as we had hoped we would. We are all asking ourselves, "What more can we do?" and honestly feeling a bit defeated. When I talked to some of the teachers about the kids who did not pass, so many of them said, "When you compare the improvement from last year to this year, it was huge. But he still missed passing by two questions." Another teacher said, "When you compare where they were to where we brought them, it's unbelievable. But still not good enough." But the STAAR test does not measure individual improvement over the course of a school year. It is a black and white assessment--pass or fail. And that is why I hate it. It's not about PROGRESS. 

Let's remember that we do not teach robots. We teach kids--kids with very different personalities, needs, and home environments. And the STAAR test expects them all to reach a certain level of mastery by a certain time. It's absurd. 

Now, in Landry's case, she's hard-wired for success on these tests and in school overall. Once she learns to control her test anxiety (which she obviously is doing a good job of), she will shine. Her personality, a people-pleaser (she gets it honestly), work ethic, home environment, and love of reading all will help her to excel on standardized tests and make her a model student. That's not to say that all kids like Landry will succeed or that all kids with a lack of parental support will fail. We can't speak in generalities because kids are individuals, but yet they are all expected to perform on the SAME tests. It just makes me crazy because I SEE the progress and growth in all of the students at my school this year. I SEE the hours of teaching and tutoring that go on behind the scenes with these amazing teachers. And yet...when the scores do not fall exactly where they should, they (both the kids and the teachers) are expected to do more when really all that is needed is more TIME to show the growth. 

School accountability ratings are extremely complex and something I won't pretend to understand. But when you see STAAR results posted in your local paper, when you watch them on the news, or hear chatter about them in your community, remember that there are precious people behind those numbers--kids who are doing their best; teachers who are stressed beyond belief trying to figure out how to take those kids to the next level of achievement. It is in our nature to judge schools based on numbers--we are a data-obsessed culture, saturated with numbers and stats. But do we, ourselves, want to be judged based on a number--our weight, our bank account, our college GPA, our age? Just remember that there's more to a school than its test scores. And there's certainly more to a child.

So while we will celebrate Landry's success on the STAAR test and applaud her ability to slay the dragons of test anxiety, we will not let these scores define the type of kid that she is. I already knew she is COMMENDED in all the ways that matter most. 


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