My Blood, My Sweat, and My Test Scores

As you might know, this week the NYC DOE said it would release 12,000 teachers’ names and their students’ test scores on State ELA and math tests in grades 3-8. I teach high school, so I am not directly effected, but here are my students’ Regents test scores from my four years teaching in NYC, anyway. I put them out there in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who are about to be put under the microscope.

You can have the scores, just please remember they are almost meaningless. They tell you about 5% of what I do. Here’s what they don’t tell you:

  • They don’t tell you that last year I taught 100% of our juniors who are special education students and/or English Language Learners, even though I only taught 50% of our juniors. They also don’t tell you I requested these most challenging students.
  • They don’t tell you that last year I taught our 15 seniors most in danger of not graduating for two periods. In that time, I prepped them for English, Global, and US Regents, as well as helping them earn credits in a wide variety of areas.
  • They don’t tell you that that I spent six weeks in the middle of the year teaching my students how to do college-level research. I estimate this costs my students an average of 5-10 points on the Regents.
  • They don’t tell you that when you ask my students who are now in college why they are succeeding when most of their urban public school peers are dropping out, they name that research project as one of their top three reasons nearly every time.
  • They don’t tell you which of my students had a home and a healthy meal the night before the test.
  • They don’t tell you that 20% of our seniors come to me every year for letters of recommendation because they feel they did their best work in my class.
  • They don’t tell you that my students went through a two-week-long veiled simulation of the Constitutional Convention, writing one that might be better than America’s.
  • They don’t tell you about the phone call I got from a student at 3am because he was kicked out of his home and had nowhere to go.
  • They don’t tell you about my work as an adviser.
  • They don’t tell you what I really want my students to learn.
  • They don’t tell you that I create a classroom where students who were on their way to Williams, Trinity, and Lafayette share tables with students who read at a second grade level, and that they all learn something daily.
  • They don’t tell you about the other teachers I coach or the department and grade teams I’ve led.
  • They don’t tell you if my students know anything about Native Americans or Latinos, since there are almost never questions on those two groups on the Regents.
  • They don’t tell you that my principal told me my first year not to worry about the Regents until the last month of the year. We learned that lesson together quickly.
  • They don’t tell you that I give some of my best students independent projects to challenge them through reading college-level texts – which means that they don’t “cover” as much material as is necessary for the test.
  • They don’t tell you if it was a good test or a bad test.
  • They don’t tell you whether I taught my students to write.
  • They don’t tell you whether I taught my students to think.

So as long as you keep that in mind, go ahead, take a look, and tell me what these scores tell you. But know that they tell me almost nothing of importance about what I need to know to do my job.

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5 thoughts on “My Blood, My Sweat, and My Test Scores

  1. Well said. I don’t know what the scores could tell me, so I won’t even bother to look, but this post tells me that I stand to learn a lot from you. I can only imagine what your students walk away from your classroom with on a daily basis.

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  2. You are an incredible teacher and an inspiration to those of us who get discouraged from “paper pushers” who think they know what we do. I am in a rural school in northeastern South Carolina. Yes, “the corridor of shame” rolls through my area. I have been teaching for a little over two decades, and I am motivated to continue to teach what students need instead of what politicians want. Thank you.

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  3. I am a student. I don’t think scores really tell anything about the student or teacher. It only tells the grader what they think a student has done against a rubric. All the other stuff ends up being lame. Standardized test do nothing other than leave more people out.

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  4. And to paraphrase the great advice of Dr. Alfie Kohn, you should in fact be very worried if your kid’s school is scoring highly on these high-stakes tests. This is one of the main reasons I teach internationally – they killed my love of teaching back home, kudos to you for sticking it out. I’m glad your students understand how lucky they are.

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