A Letter to My Third Grader as She Takes Her First High Stakes Tests

My daughter begins her first round of annual state mandated high stakes tests this week. Here are my thoughts for her.Dear K.,

Welcome to your first high stakes tests. These are assessments the state makes your teachers give you at the end of the year to see how you’re learning. Our school’s accreditation depends, in part, on the results of your and your classmates’ tests. No pressure. I know you’re nervous, but I also know you’ve got this. You’ve practiced and studied, and your teachers have worked diligently to prepare you.

I even included some affiliate links to items your teachers used here in this post to ready all the students for these high stakes tests.

I know you’re ready for these assessments, but I’m not sure I am. To be completely honest, my teacher-heart has 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 high stakes tests, and these tests sure as heck aren’t all about learning.

Across the country, authentic learning experiences have been replaced with activities designed to prepare students to pass their state-mandated high stakes tests. 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.

Your teachers have tried not to center their teaching around test prep.

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 we could all spend time studying 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 real-life 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 high stakes tests using these types of learning experiences, but your teachers have soldiered on. For this, I’m grateful.

High stakes tests still color everything we teachers try to do, no matter how hard our administrators work to the opposite ends on our behalf. My letter to my daughter on the eve of her first high stakes tests.

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 Telgemeier 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 to 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.

In short, 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 in our lessons and wonder in our assignments. You and your friends deserve all the brilliant rainbows that education has to offer.

Good luck. I believe in you, Baby!

Love,

Mama

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14 thoughts on “A Letter to My Third Grader as She Takes Her First High Stakes Tests

  • May 24, 2017 at 5:17 pm
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    Aww that’s a great letter! I wish all parents thought of these advice for their kids and lifted the pressure off their shoulders

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    • May 25, 2017 at 11:12 am
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      I’ve worked hard to ease her mind. She’ll do just fine! Thanks so much for commenting!

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  • May 25, 2017 at 1:02 am
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    Aww, how I wished my parents had told me all these while I was growing up. If I had grown in an environment like that, I am quite sure that I would turn out a different person, and I surely would not be in the course that I am in now (with full of regrets). If only I could turn back time.

    http://thiscache.blogspot.com

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    • May 25, 2017 at 11:13 am
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      I am so sorry you feel that way. No regrets! Just keep living and walking your path. When you’re ready, try a different path! Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  • May 25, 2017 at 7:25 am
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    This is such an interesting post – I grew up in Czech Republic and we never had such huge formal tests at the end of the year. We had lots and lots of little ones throughout the year instead – literally every day, sometimes even multiple tests and examinations a day! I’d much prefer it the way you have it in the US x

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    • May 25, 2017 at 11:16 am
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      The problem is, we have little ones all the time as well to predict how the kids will do on the bigger ones. It sure is interesting, though to hear about education in other countries! Thanks for sharing!

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  • May 25, 2017 at 5:31 pm
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    Such a great letter and a great idea to help the kids out♥

    -Danielle Ruppert // danielleruppert.com

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    • May 26, 2017 at 10:58 am
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      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Reply
  • May 25, 2017 at 9:27 pm
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    Kids have so much pressure , good for you for trying to help relieve some of it

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    • May 26, 2017 at 10:57 am
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      Teachers and kids are drowning under pressure this time of year. Thanks for visiting!!

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    • May 26, 2017 at 10:59 am
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      It’s a tough time of year for everyone! Soon, it will all be over!

      Reply
  • May 27, 2017 at 4:16 pm
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    Ahh this is such a lovely post! only the other day I was talking to a mum who said her son is taking 16 gcse’s and when I was doing mine not that many years ago I had 11 and at that time I thought it was a lot! There’s so much pressure and expectations of kids these days and it’s so lovely to read something as encouraging as this. Good on you Mama.

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    • May 31, 2017 at 10:27 am
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      Thanks so much! Kids are resilient, but the pressure is tough!

      Reply

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