By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – In absolutely shocking news today (insert sarcasm here), the standardized testing scores for Louisiana’s students last year show a significant drop as both teachers and students attempted to conduct classes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, there are now calls to shelve the annual school report card scores:
The letter grades are typically announced in November and are aimed at showing taxpayers how schools are performing.
But scores in math, English, science, and social studies took a nosedive that affected virtually every school system in the state.
Scores on the exams, called LEAP 2025, fell 5 percentage points in meeting state achievement targets after years of inching up a point or two annually.
This is an indicator to why so many people distrust the suits that run public education. Who in the world ever thought this would turn out any differently? Who thought these test scores would resemble anything like a normal year? Who thought it was even a good idea to go ahead with standardized testing in a year when students were dealing with unprecedented stress because of the pandemic?
It doesn’t matter how you feel about the pandemic; that’s not the issue here. Whether you believe it is a political conspiracy or the next bubonic plague – it doesn’t matter here. The events since March 2020 have affected literally everyone in some degree or another, but I’m not sure we are paying enough attention to how it has affected our at risk kids, or even kids in general.
Let me tell you what I saw.
I taught in a Title 1 school for twenty years and that’s where I was when this all rolled out. In our high school we had kids in extreme poverty, terrible home situations, homeless kids, stories that would make you weep. Not every kid was in a dire situation but by far the majority had some level of poverty at the very least. I say this only to indicate the level of stress at which these kids were already functioning.
In March 2020 we closed schools and they did not reopen until August. For at least five months these kids lost the support system of the school including the administrators and educators who look out for them, who look to be sure they have food, a roof over their head, or if abuse is present. In our school we have paid electric bills, bought shoes, found housing, provided meals and clothing when it was needed. Maybe this isn’t the job of a school, but it’s the job of humanity.
When we returned in August, our kids were so damn glad to be back in a social, structured environment, we had zero classroom management issues. But, we had other issues.
We dealt with quarantines and A/B schedules. We struggled with online classes, kids with no technology, kids with no home support, kids that never logged on. Imagine the struggle of a child trying to log onto an online Chemistry class while mom is entertaining all night, your house is filled with people some of whom you don’t know. You aren’t getting proper rest or food. Maybe you don’t have electricity. You don’t know where you are going to be sleeping from one night to another. Any number of heartbreaking situations.
And we expect these kids to learn at the same level as a normal year? And then give them a standardized test?
When our State Dept of Education announced that we would not waive testing as some other states had done, as teachers we had no choice but to do our best to prepare these kids as best we could. So many of them felt unfathomable stress over these tests. It broke my heart.
The State wanted the data. They wanted to see how far students had dropped, what the learning loss was because of the pandemic.
So now they know.
And I could have told them all along that the scores would drop. I had only half my kids in class at any given time. In addition to the quarantines and the illness, as teachers we also dealt with incessant cleaning and sanitizing our rooms and equipment. We had to modify lessons and deal with changing restrictions and guidelines on a weekly basis. Kids weren’t the only ones feeling the stress.
And so now those brilliant Suits in Education think maybe it could be a good idea to waive school report card scores. We spend a bloody fortune on standardized testing which we knew would show a significant drop yet we forked over all that money anyway, and for what?
What has been gained from all that testing?
And the suits in Education wonder why we rail against public education.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.