A Letter to My Daughter Before Her First High Stakes Tests

2 min


This heartfelt letter is written from a teacher-mom to her third-grader daughter before testing season. Grab a tissue box and enjoy!

Dear K,

Welcome to your first SOL tests. I know you’re nervous, but I also know you’ve got this. You’ve practiced and studied, and I know you’re ready.

To be completely honest, I’ve been dreading this since the day you were born. It’s not that I ever doubted that you could ace these assessments, it’s just that test prep tends to take all the brilliant colors of education and muddy them into the dull gray of multiple choice questions.  Learning itself isn’t all about this test, and this test sure as heck isn’t all about learning.

Across the country, authentic learning experiences have been replaced with activities designed to prepare students to pass the test. Time to savor amazing novels has been replaced with class periods full of passages and comprehension questions. Parents and teachers from around our nation complain that the testing and data collection never ends. Unfortunately, they are right.

This year, you’ve taken part in publishing a class book. You’ve learned about coding and 3-D printing. We’ve played math games your teacher sent home instead of worksheets so families could spend time learning together. You and your friends have worked cooperatively to create your own businesses and projects. These lessons don’t fit on a data chart, but these authentic experiences your teachers provided through grant writing and creative planning will be the ones you remember.

It’s tougher and more time consuming to track student growth in preparation for the test using these types of learning experiences, but your teachers have soldiered on. For this, I’m grateful.

High stakes testing still colors everything we teachers try to do, no matter how hard our administrators work to the opposite ends on our behalf. Here’s what I want you to remember, though as you take your first series of assessments…

The score on the test may describe how you did on that particular day, but it doesn’t even come close to defining you. SOLs don’t tell us anything about how much you love your Raina Telegmeier books and how you read Ghosts three times the first weekend you got it.

This assessment doesn’t reveal the complexity of the Lego sets you put together by yourself, the deliciousness of the dinner you helped us make the other night, or the sweetness of the songs you make up for us. The test doesn’t describe how you stood up in front of an auditorium full of people and danced your heart out at your ballet recital. It surely doesn’t show how you stood up for your friend when someone was being mean. 

As far as your classmates are concerned, the high stakes tests don’t describe how they may have gotten themselves up this morning, fixed their own breakfast and lunch, and walked the bus stop with no adult help. The tests don’t talk about the illnesses they’re fighting or the trauma they face in their homes each day.

State assessments don’t tell us what great kids you all are. But we don’t need anything on paper to tell us that, now do we?

In short, on test day, just do your best. You’ve got this. We teachers will continue to work to put color into our lessons and wonder into our assignments. You and all your friends deserve all the brilliant rainbows that education has to offer.

Good luck. I believe in you.

Love,

Mama

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jennifer worrell profile photoThis article was written by Jennifer Worrell – an elementary and middle school teacher for 22 years. She has written for Daily Press and The Virginia Journal of Education. She also creates high-quality instructional materials for the classroom on Teachers Pay TeachersCheck her out on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Linkedin.


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