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A concerned member of the human race

Friday, July 18, 2014

Warning: You Are Not a Test Score!

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I like to find stories about schooling in other countries.  Most of the news, as you would expect, puts a damper on the day.  A couple weeks ago, a teacher in France was stabbed to death in front of her primary-school students.  Just the other day, a six-year old girl was raped at a school in India, reportedly by a gym teacher and a security guard.

Recent news from a Lancashire primary school, however, did make me smile.  When students and their parents opened letters from the school, they found not only KS2 (Key Stage 2) test results, but also some pearls of wisdom.   In the video segment attached to the BBC story, the correspondent speculates that the new British Secretary of Education, Nicky Morgan, might even have a copy of the viral letter in her inbox by now.  

The letter from head teacher, Rachel Tomlinson, enclosed with the test results, helped put the scores in perspective.  In brief, the letter tells students that they should be proud of their efforts; they are more than just a test score; "there are many ways of being smart."  Each student is singular in some special way and has many talents and positive characteristic traits to which the test makers are completely oblivious.  

One wonders whether Secretary Arne Duncan or NY State Commissioner, John King, would even have the forbearance to read the letter in its entirety or understand the sentiments behind it.  It must be so much easier to see the letter as part of a vast conspiracy plot by tea-party members and "white, suburban moms."

Here is a copy of the Lancashire letter in its entirety.  

Please find enclosed your end of KS2 test results. We are very proud of you as you demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.
However, we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you... the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do.
They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture.
They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school.
They do not know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends.
They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best... the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.
So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.

And, how I wish our Secretary of Education, his financial backers, and all those who share a similar mindset, so detached from the realities of childhood development, would find new "ways of being smart."

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