Testing Shame, a Poem About High-Stakes Testing

Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

Hi poets and teachers–Over these last weeks of school, I’m sharing several poems from my new collection, The Heart of a Teacher. Today’s short poem is a sad one (but others are funny or sarcastic or celebratory–they aren’t all negative:>)

Testing Shame, a Poem About High-Stakes Testing

I have to admit, I always loved standardized tests when I was a kid. They were a change from the routine and involved sitting and reading for hours at a time. They were fun and easy and positive reinforcement for me. But that is NOT the experience of most kids today, as the amount of stress students (and teachers) experience over testing has skyrocketed. Since I visit lots of schools in April, I see lots of students just before or after testing. Some take it in stride, but for others, it’s just confirmation that they are failures. It’s hard to see students and teachers so beat down by testing.

On a more positive note(!), don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup with amazing poet/educator Julie Larios.

heart of a teacher
The Heart of a Teacher — 64 poems about being an educator

17 Responses

  1. A sad poem, Laura — but you capture the feeling brilliantly. It’s such a shame that so much of education’s focused on test results — not fair on our children, and not fair on teachers, either.

    1. I agree. Back when *I* was a kid (cue old-man voice), testing was something that popped up once every couple of years for a couple of weeks. Now it seems like a constant merry-go-round of different tests, plus year-round prep for those tests…

  2. This sad poem could be about a teacher as well as a student. Tying teacher performance evaluations to student test scores can be demoralizing.

    1. You are so right. The teachers (really GOOD teachers) have been as sad, overwhelmed, disgusted, or angry as the students, definitely.

  3. My own children liked doing the testing too, Laura. It’s sad that so much has changed in these recent years. You’ve written it right. that “#2 watercolor of failure.” Too many teachers have shared that their students look at the tests, then at them as if they’ve been betrayed. I’m glad you are sharing the emotions of it.

    1. Thank you, Linda. And I’m glad I’m not the only one. I feel kind of guilty for enjoying it!

  4. I looked forward to standardized testing when I was a student, too, Laura. But you’re right. It’s a completely different animal now days. So overemphasized! Seems like that’s all that teachers/students/administrators talk about. I wish we could find our way back to a better balance.

    1. Exactly! I know assessment is necessary. That balance is totally what’s missing…

  5. I liked it, too, as a student. I knew the results would show me how smart I thought I was, and there was something satisfying about filing in the bubbles with a sharp pencil. But those tests are gone, along with the pencils. It’s all reading on computers, questions that are convoluted and trying to assess eight or ten standards each, and so much pressure! As a teacher is heartbreaking to build a child up and watch the number tear them down. All that outside of the fact that they’re using those numbers to determine my worth as a teacher!

    1. Yep, it’s a whole different animal now. It used to be a tool, and now it feels like a weapon used on certain groups of kids and on teachers. :>(

  6. Standardized testing is like the hydra where you cut off one head and three grow back. It’s easy for my kids, but it’s too much stress on the whole educational system.

    1. Like AR, it’s rewarding for the smart kids who are good achievers and test-takers, but it’s stressful and has horrible consequences on struggling students and on teachers. It does feel like an enormous weight on the back of a fragile system.

    1. You and so many other strong, creative teachers. It’s one of the reasons I’m so glad I didn’t end up staying in the classroom, though it wasn’t a reason I left at the time. :>/

  7. Congratulations on your new book, Laura! I’ll have to order a copy.

    The school “reform” movement–which brought us the mania for the high stakes testing of young children–is the reason that I took early retirement. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to continue teaching the way I had been for so many years. I would not want to be a teacher these days. I’m hoping things will change soon–before my granddaughters enter public school.

    1. Strong teachers retiring early — it’s like the canary dying in the mine: the early warning system that things are NOT right.

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