In a powerful letter by Darein C. Spann, a member of the Mississippi Association of Educators, he addresses the major concerns of the contemporary school system regarding test scores and how we, as a society must reduce the level of importance we place on these numbers.
“To you all, test scores are the most important factor because you don’t get to look into the eyes of children who just want a chance. You allow the test scores to be the deciding factor about whether schools or teachers are working hard enough to help children. But, behind the scenes, so many other factors are at play, and many of them are beyond our control.
Our test is much more than the one you all require students to take. We see students achieving in many, many other ways. Our goal each year is to see student growth. Every year, we see students grow, but all you see is a test score.”
— Darein C. Spann
I stumbled upon this letter today and read it from beginning to end a number of times. I think Spann nails it on the head. Test scores are necessary because they assign a numerical, tangible value to student achievement. We understand the importance because this measurement has become common scale in which we can assess students’ abilities across the nation; this is invaluable.
However, where we must draw the line is when these scores become the only measurement.
Though there is much to be both learned and gained in standardized testing; however, our students’ growth and learning is not something that can be chalked up to a simple number.
Spann continues, questioning whether legislators actually stepped foot in a classroom or witnessed the learning themselves.
He says, firmly:
“From many of your preconceived notions and comments and the less-than-adequate funding you have given to school districts, you think what you provide is more than enough to raise student achievement. I am here to tell you that it is not.”
— Darein C. Spann
This strength hits home. I’ve had many conversations about test scores and the controversy surrounding them. Though testing makes sense in terms of evaluating standards, determining averages, and measuring growth; these numbers are simply not a true reflection of all a child is, and has learned.
Behind the scenes of a classroom, students are becoming engaged, are acquiring life skills, are developing relationships – and none of this is measurable on a standardized test.
I think the points Spann brings to light are essential for us to continue to talk about and debate. The future of the education world cannot simply stay the same; we have to be growing, changing, and finding new ways to assess our students’ progress – a number on a sheet of paper simply won’t do.
To read the letter in its entirety, click here.
Featured Image Credit: Gaelle Marcel