Teacher: Thanks for the Test Scores!

I stumbled across Accomplished California Teachers, a new teacher leadership network for the state of California, which is housed under the umbrella of the School of Education at Stanford University. Every time I read something by a disgruntled teacher (or parent), I wonder why it’s so hard to get education on the right track.

Dear Teacher
by David B. Cohen
from Accomplished California Teachers

Dear Teacher,

I just want to take a moment to thank you for all that you did for me when I was in your class. Now that I’m out of high school, I really appreciate it even more. When I started your English class, I knew that my test scores were kind of low, and I was really committed to improving my performance on two of the subtests. You saw that potential in me, and even more. By providing me with chances to read anthologized literary excerpts and random workplace documents, all followed by multiple choice assessments, you showed a commitment to my learning, and my test scores that spring really proved how far I had come. I was totally comfortable dealing with any readings chosen for me, and comfortable choosing the answers to other people’s questions. I also remember that you showed us how to answer the questions without even doing most of the reading, and that sure did help on the test!

Do you remember my sister? She was in your class a few years ahead of me, and I was just talking to her about your class. She couldn’t even remember what her test scores were – probably because she usually has her nose in a book, when she’s not writing in her journals or on her blog.

My sister just graduated from college, but as for me, I don’t know if you heard, but I’ve taken a break from school. I tried it for a year, but none of the instructors cared as much as you did, so it was hard to connect. A lot of times they assigned us really long readings and didn’t even give us any points for doing all that homework. Then, we had to write essays on these ridiculously hard questions where you couldn’t even find the answer in the books. I did my best and put together my five paragraphs and everything, and I still got low grades. When they don’t tell you how to find the answers and don’t even give you the motivation, well… it just wasn’t for me. It’s just too bad that all those skills we practiced in your class don’t even seem to matter in college. I think I might transfer to another school, but for now, I’m just working and waiting for inspiration to come along.

One more thing – I saw on the news that they’re going to start paying teachers more if your students do well on tests. That should be good news for you! And why not? I definitely think you deserve it after all you did to raise our test scores.


Your former Proficient Student

11 thoughts on “Teacher: Thanks for the Test Scores!

  1. I think I’ve had this student in my college class. Here are the questions I got today when I announced the next take-home essay assignment.

    Which articles should I look at to find the answer? How long does my essay have to be? What do you want me to say? Which topic is better?

    And, the FAQ for essay assignments:
    Grammar shouldn’t count, this isn’t English class. Spelling shouldn’t count, spellcheck should fix it all. I’m not a major in your discipline, why should I have to write about it? What do you mean wikipedia isn’t an appropriate reference?

    And, these students are bad students, they just haven’t been asked to go it alone before.


  2. To K..I think you mean these aren’t bad students.

    In the early 90’s I taught a couple of college courses and the issues were the same then. I felt like I was teaching high school students but they were all at least 20 years old. The public school system failed kids miserably, creating misery for them and for teachers and professors who try to inspire them.
    The message, then, I think to those elementary school schools is, forget about the “right answer” and start teaching thinking skills. Stop boring those young minds into submission with the endless rules and orders and testing and keep those imaginations going.


  3. Oops. Yes. These are NOT bad students.

    They are perfectly good, bright students that are unaccustomed to having open-ended assignments.

    Thanks for the correction – I should pay more attention before I hit “submit”.


  4. Couldn’t agree more! I am a paralegal at a law firm and must work with the college graduate assistants/receptionists. My 13-year old is so far ahead of any of them. He has great critical thinking skills, problem solving methods, and good common sense, all three of which are sadly lacking in our young “educated” population. I have to spell everything out for them, and repeat the instructions three or four times before they even begin to get it.

    I am sooooo happy I took my son out of a learning environment with a focus on all the wrong things, and put him in a school that truly “gets” bright kids and the different way they learn.


  5. I wish I did not feel the urge to laugh at this, but I don’t really know what else to do any more. Maybe I’ll write a five paragraph essay about it to make me feel better. I’ll just make up the facts, because the important thing is to get the format right. That’s how you score the highest scores on tests and in life–getting the format right. I hope grocery stores start accepting test scores to pay for food, otherwise our children are going to be very skinny adults. Oh well, at least they’ll have the life long satisfaction and fond memories of their high scores and their school “team” making AYP.


  6. My daughter was accepted to her top choice college. Well, there were two reaches she really wanted but they were, well, reach and she didn’t get either. She’s now torn between two choices.

    Since both these options had their Admitted Students Celebration on the same day, we went to Choice #1 early, over spring break. It actually worked out beautifully because we just dropped in on admissions, hoping to chat for a few seconds with the admissions person designated to daughter’s region. He happened to be around and spent over an hour with us. After the sterile culture of school (I will give praise where praise is due, however. Our school’s office staff treats me like gold, with full respect and kindness, and believe you me, I reciprocate every inch of the way), the comfy personal warm chat with this admissions counselor was like a breath of fresh air.

    I asked him, what effects of NCLB are you seeing in today’s students? Without hesitation, he jumped right in. He knew EXACTLY where I was going with this and he had a ready answer. It was clear he’d given it thought and the college was concerned with K-12. He says they reject applications of top straight A students because nowhere in the resume does the student indicate he can think, make wise decisions, show some passion. They don’t want robo-student.

    This particular college has a program within the program, and my daughter was accepted. It’s seminar style, with, as I understand it, no grades or tests. It’s designed for intellectual students who are intrinsically motivated to learn. It’ tailor made for my daughter as it is in depth (she has a proclivity to hyper-focus) and the students of this college within the college live and study together for this portion of their credits.

    The admissions person shared with me the frustrations of today’s K-12 and how they work against the college ethos. He confirmed what we all know here. Many students come into college without the necessary skills for inquiry, research, analysis, theory and debate. They have been been trained to look for the right answer, they need material spoon fed and they are utterly obsessed with the right answer and the right grade. Quick and dirty, get it over with, back to Facebook. When homework is tedious, this is how “high achievers” learned to cope. Disengage, run through it, cheat, have Mommy do it, play the game, get the grade.

    So much for all this PREPARATION, preparing our young for college. We aren’t. We aren’t preparing students to work collaboratively, to think independently, to indulge their creatively.

    Teachers, I appeal to you here. You must do something. You must fight for your profession. You must stop trying to justify a desiccated curriculum, a forced march as Fred likes to say, a joylous tedious soul crushing slog.

    While I have had huge empathy for teachers who have their wings clipped, my patience has worn thin. You can’t expect parents to do all the work. If you are too afraid to stick your neck out (and I can understand that), sign anonymous petitions. Above all, get your union to DO SOMETHING. Every time I read Randi Weingarten, she strikes me as more of the problem, hardly the solution.


  7. to indulge their CREATIVITY. Not creatively. I changed something and left out the necessary articles. Or something.

    I’m going back to bed for Take Two. I disown all further mistakes.


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