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My Blood, My Sweat, and My Test Scores

As you might know, this week the city said it would release 12,000 teachers’ names alongside their students’ test scores on state reading and math tests in grades 3-8. I teach high school, so I am not directly affected, but here are my students’ Regents test scores from my four years teaching in NYC, anyway. I put them out there in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in teaching who are about the be put under the microscope.

You can have the scores, just please remember they are almost meaningless. They tell you about 5 percent of what I do. Here’s what they don’t tell you:

  • They don’t tell you that last year I taught 100 percent of our juniors who are special education students and/or English Language Learners, even though I only taught 50 percent of our juniors. They also don’t tell you I requested these most challenging students.
  • They don’t tell you that last year I taught our 15 seniors most in danger of not graduating for two periods. In that time, I prepped them for Regents exams in English, global studies, and U.S. history, and I also helped them earn credits in a wide variety of areas.
  • They don’t tell you that that I spent six weeks in the middle of the year teaching my students how to do college-level research. I estimate this costs my students an average of 5-10 points on the Regents exam.
  • They don’t tell you that when you ask my students who are now in college why they are succeeding when most of their urban public school peers are dropping out, they name that research project as one of their top three reasons nearly every time.
  • They don’t tell you which of my students had a home and a healthy meal the night before the test.
  • They don’t tell you that 20 percent of our seniors come to me every year for letters of recommendation because they feel they did their best work in my class.
  • They don’t tell you that my students went through a two-week-long veiled simulation of the Constitutional Convention, writing one that might be better than America’s.
  • They don’t tell you about the phone call I got from a student at 3 a.m. because he was kicked out of his home and had nowhere to go.
  • They don’t tell you about my work as an adviser.
  • They don’t tell you what I really want my students to learn.
  • They don’t tell you that I create a classroom where students who were on their way to Williams, Trinity, and Lafayette colleges share tables with students who read at a second-grade level, and that they all learn something daily.
  • They don’t tell you about the other teachers I coach or the department and grade teams I’ve led.
  • They don’t tell you if my students know anything about Native Americans or Latinos, since there are almost never questions on those two groups on the Regents.
  • They don’t tell you that my principal told me my first year not to worry about the Regents until the last month of the year. We learned that lesson together quickly.
  • They don’t tell you that I give some of my best students independent projects to challenge them through reading college-level texts — which means that they don’t “cover” as much material as is necessary for the test.
  • They don’t tell you if it was a good test or a bad test.
  • They don’t tell you whether I taught my students to write.
  • They don’t tell you whether I taught my students to think.

So as long as you keep that in mind, go ahead, take a look, and tell me what these scores tell you. But know that they tell me almost nothing of importance about what I need to know to do my job.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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