Skin in the Game

We’ve received our students scores from the State Literacy Examination. In the past, we’ve just mailed individual student’s results out to them over the summer. This year, for a variety of reasons, I actually delivered some of my students’ results by hand. What a mixed experience! Clapping a student on the back and saying, “Congratulations. You passed!” felt like a million bucks. Faces lit, fists pumped, mouths whooped. Unfortunately, I also had to tell some students they hadn’t passed. Seeing them deflate before my eyes as they received the news was heartbreaking. Some tried to joke about it and make light of it. Others got angry. Some took it in silence.

Regardless, the experience transformed my outlook on this test (at least partially). I actually saw how these kids feel when they pass or fail. The cushion of the US Postal Service and a summer vacation take the emotion out of the experience. When I delivered it by hand and experienced the news with them made the experience visceral. Students may pretend indifference all year and complain viciously when we prepare for the test, but they still care when the results come. A passing student feels like a success; a failing student feels like a failure. This, for me, is what matters now. I can argue against standardized testing and how its unethical, ineffective, and bad for education. In the end, though, my students care whether they pass or fail, and that makes it meaningful. Now I have skin in the game.

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