I just came home from my daughter's Open House. I have been lucky. I have been happy with her education at Lake George Elementary for the past five years and I still am. They find time for art, PE, and music for kids each day. I find inspiration in the work that elementary educators are doing with my child. They always have a school-wide theme. This year it is related to superheroes and super powers. Elementary educators inform my instructional practice. When we went to the rotational model in reading classes at my high school, I turned to Debbie Diller. When I wanted to learn more about contextualizing grammar instruction by using mentor sentences, I turned to the work of Jeff Anderson (perhaps he is more upper elementary/middle school). I respect the work of elementary educators. In this county they are not only responsible for 18-22 students all day, but also hundreds of academic standards teaching reading, writing, social studies, science and math.
In this year, my daughter's last year of elementary school, I find fear. It is not the fear I have over the impending change of middle school looming in her future. She is having a wonderful time in a book club for reading enrichment and as a patrol, as well as advancing to the the highest level of math offered at her school. My fear, however, stems from the changes that are in store for her with the new Florida Standards and the new high stakes tests mandated by the state of Florida in each and every subject. My ten year old will take 8 high stakes tests at the end of the year in reading, writing, social studies, math, science, art, PE, and music, most on computers. Fifth graders at this school aren't the only ones impacted with such tests. Kindergartners will face such examinations also. I am not sure how many. I hope not 8.
I am not afraid the Florida Standards. I do fear the hastily cobbled together high stakes tests that educators in this state are learning about daily as new information comes out from the state and the district. I fear the results of the tests that my daughter, her teacher, her school, this district and this state will be judged upon. I have been studying and working with the CCSS, now know in this state as LAFS, for the past three years. It is part of my job. Teachers at all grade levels are digging in deep to the teaching of the standards that have just merely been words on a page. We are still developing our instructional practices. We are novices as are our kids grappling with complex texts, writing academic arguments, and figuring out how to teach all the learners in the room. To quell my fear, we need breathing room. We need more time to practice without penalty. Our kids too.
As I finished up my final round of questions for her teacher, who had as many as I about the high stakes tests she said, "Is it just me or us (elementary school teachers) that are overwhelmed and burdened by this work?"
The best that I could do was to reassure her that, "No, we all are." Everyone in this profession who earnestly cares about the development of children as learners are just as worried, perhaps like me afraid. The question is I keep asking is do parents know enough about what is going to be asked of their children at the end of the year to be worried as we are?