A letter to Indiana Legislators and State Board of Education

Guest post posted with permission:


Test Teaching ToFebruary 2, 2015

Dear Indiana Legislators and State Board of Education,

Since many of you do not work directly with our Hoosier students, I thought I’d share some stories of just a few past students* who frequently surface to the top:

Christopher moved into our district as school started: All his mom could tell me was, “He’s bad. I can’t control him. He’s a bad kid.” The state of Indiana now deems that I am an effective teacher only if I can get him to pass a ten-hour standardized test, not that I helped Christopher understand he’s not a bad kid.

Jonah slept in class all morning or was seriously agitated. He confided in me that his father “raged” a lot at night. One early morning in April his house was involved in a drug bust and all his adult family members were arrested. The state of Indiana now deems that I am an effective teacher only if I can get him to pass a ten-hour standardized test, not that I gave him a warm blanket and a snack most mornings.

Lilah was just one of the homeless students I came to know through the years. She had moved in about a month into school from out of state. During the seven months she lived here she stayed in four different locations, including the homeless shelter. The state of Indiana now deems that I am an effective teacher only if I can get her to pass a ten-hour standardized test, not that I visited her at each house and usually brought her mom groceries.

Ricardo was big for his age and a real prankster, too. That was his way of communicating since he did not speak much English. We would sit together and read books in Spanish and English. The state of Indiana now deems that I am an effective teacher only if I can get him to pass a ten-hour standardized test, though I cannot even imagine how difficult that test is for him in English.

I never saw William smile once. He had witnessed his mother brutally attacked and wanted to be home with her. Every time I see one of those hard metal chairs they had in that school it reminds me of the one that he threw at my head. The state of Indiana now deems that I am an effective teacher only if I can get him to pass a ten-hour standardized test, though the best I ever managed was convincing him not to rip it to shreds.

Then there was Kaylah. She was mentally impaired and only recognized a few sight words. She loved stories, especially the repetitive ones with the slightly different surprise endings. She’d burst with excitement and “read” that part with me. The state of Indiana now deems that I am an effective teacher only if I can get her to pass a ten-hour standardized test. I cannot. Neither can her resource teacher, who cries along with her in frustration during the test.

I could tell you more stories; students who grew up in crack-houses, parents abusing the foster care system, autism, severe paranoia, molestation, blindness, loss of siblings and parents.

I care about each of the children mentioned above. I care about each one I know today and each little one coming to me in the future. I do not fear your evaluation. What I fear is never breaking the cycle of poverty and abuse that is pervasive in our culture. Please trust me when I say the tools you are giving me now are implements of more hurt, more pain, more destruction of lives. Please, begin to give me the real tools and proper resources we all need to make meaningful change in this state.

*All names and possibly the gender of former students have been changed to protect their identity.

Sincerely,

John Stoffel

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