Standardized Testing lowering morale for students with IEPs and receiving ESL services
- Author: Anonymous- Bronx. NY, Teacher
- State: NY
- Test: All Tests
- Date: July 31 at 11:17 am ET
“Ms., will this be on the test?” This is a question that I hear in my classroom on a daily basis. For the most part students are referring to an in-class assessment that I create, but this question is also related to the end-of-year state exam, the Regents. By May, my students are stressed out. As much as I try to keep the word Regents out of my mouth and out of the classroom, it is inevitable that it enters and influences my classroom and my teaching. In every class the topic of the Regents comes up in review, test prep, punishment, daily lessons, etc. Students become ridden with anxiety about these tests, which determine whether or not they will receive a high school diploma from New York State.
My students especially, as they all have individualized education programs and several also receive ESL instruction, are even more stressed out. They often have very little confidence in their academic abilities because of the labels that are associated with receiving special education services. Based on the my students appearance and if one had a social conversation with them, one would never think that they might have a learning disability or a processing/communication disorder; however, they do and it directly impacts their ability to pass the Regents exams. On average (I currently teach ninth and tenth grade history and English), the reading level of my students is on a fourth grade level (some students are below this and are functionally illiterate), yet they are expected to take and pass exams that use grade level language and vocabulary. Yes, they have accommodations such as having the test read to them (except for the English Language Arts Regents) and extended time, but often students with IEPs and those who receive ESL services must retake the exams several times leading to low morale and low engagement in class because they have the mindset that they will fail anyway.
I chose to become a teacher to expose students to different perspectives. I am still in the early part of my career, but after my first two years I decided to work in another sector and I did so for three years. I left teaching at first in large part due to the pressure that schools and especially teachers are under to have students pass standardized exams. Teaching became test preparation and “drill and kill”. I frankly became bored and no longer challenged as a professional and felt my intellect and education was being belittled. After three years I did return to the classroom and while I am glad to have returned, I am again feeling that pressure to force teaching to the test, especially as I come upon my tenure year. I also find myself rushing through material and teaching “breadth, not depth”. It is disheartening. There are so many topics in history that I would love to go in depth, as would the students, but due to pressure from the Regents it is simply not possible.
I will be sticking with education this second time around, but I do hope that change rolls around and sooner rather than later. For my school I hope that they move towards portfolio-based assessments in lieu of Regents exams. In the current system students have no way of showing how much they have learned and grown over the academic year. Students would also take much more pride in putting together a portfolio as they are actively involved in its creation and can take ownership over it as opposed to a test they take one time and is shipped away and never seen again. Parent involvement is also extremely important. Parents should be encouraged to visit classrooms, receive texts and resources to assist as best as possible their children outside of the classroom. Hopefully with parent involvement and a shift to other forms of assessing knowledge, which may be wishful thinking, will lead to a decrease in the amount of times I am asked “Ms., will this be on the test?”