School Climate & Safety Opinion

The Test Will Go On

By Susan Graham — April 25, 2011 2 min read
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After viewing a YouTube video taken at a Pennsylvania school, Will Richardson feels a little squeamish about test prep pep rallies. He asks

You have to wonder, is this really what we've come to in schools? That we have to remind kids that they are "bigger than the test" and show pictures of kids with captions like "6th Grade: Not Afraid" in an effort to steel their nerves? That showing what they've "learned" in schools is something they have to mentally prepare themselves for instead of just naturally exhibit? Really?

Imagine: You and the rest of your 3rd grade class are sitting cross legged on the cafeteria floor as your teacher dances around doing The Bump to “calm your nerves and encourage you to do your best” on the big test tomorrow And then, as she sits down, she passes out, they take her away in an ambulance, and then your teacher dies. Well, it happened in Augusta Georgia on Wednesday, April 13.

Not to fear, the school system and even the state fully grasped the seriousness of the situation and the possible impact on the children. The school system says teachers at the school did a good job of trying to insulate the children from what was happening and extra counselors were on site on Thursday to support students and teachers. Because, as the principal told the press

Those teachers are devastated...There would be no way that these kids would be able to take that test Thursday.

On Thursday morning, a school system spokesman said

It's somber there. They're remembering her today. They have a memorial on their website for her. There was a lot of love for her, you could feel that yesterday in the building.

The school system and the state demonstrated compassion. Those kids and those teachers were given a full day to grieve. But on Friday, the test will go on. I googled this story and found about five versions. Every single one of them says something to the effect of “The tests will be postponed until Friday.”

So I’m wondering---How did it go in Mrs. E’s room last Friday? Did well meaning adults tell the children, “Mrs. E would have wanted you to do your best on this. Let’s do this for her today.” Well, actually the principal did say,

We will truly miss her, but we're going to go on, I told the staff to do everything as Mrs. E would want it to be done. She always gave 150 percent, and we're going to continue to give 150 percent in her honor.

Richardson says,

Some parents in Pennsylvania are saying "ENOUGH!" They're going to their legislators and educating them on the reality of the current testing culture that is harming kids and leaving them worse off as learners. They're pulling their kids out of the test to make a statement, one that is a personal statement for now but, if more people join in, could send a powerful message to the education "leaders" in this country that we have to think differently.

I wonder if any parents at that Georgia school kept their kids home on Friday and said “Enough all ready!” Didn’t anybody consider that nine year olds might wonder if it’s somehow their fault that Mrs. E is gone? Did anyone question whether the test results would have any real validity under the circumstances? If the school doesn’t make AYP, will the record state that there were extenuating circumstances? And if the test scores were used to calculate Value Added Measures of teacher efficacy, would the conclusion be that the teachers were less than highly effective because one day of mourning should be sufficient?

Mrs. E’s daughter said when it comes to teachers her mom was as good as they get. She says the teacher, who students called “Miss E” was hands-on and loved every kid she taught. Whatever lesson she taught she always tried to make sure that the kids had fun while they were learning.

Patricia Edminster
was 53. She lived in North Augusta with her husband of 35 years. She had two children and two grandchildren and enjoyed swimming, watching NASCAR racing and reading good books.

This is a story about a tragic loss. But it is not a story about courage and dedication. It’s a story about waste and misplaced values and the dehumanization of our schools. And it’s wrong.

I’m sorry Mrs. E. You will be missed.

The opinions expressed in A Place at the Table are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.