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This week my community, and one school in particular, has suffered a great loss. Within two days of each other a second grader passed away unexpectedly, and two other students lost their fathers in separate car accidents. These tragedies have also hit me close to home because the brother of the second grader and the son of one of the fathers are students in my daughter's classroom. No college class or textbook could have prepared her for these situations. But she has handled them with love, grace, and compassion.
I live in a small, conservative midwestern town with neighborhood schools. One of the benefits of living here is how our schools pull together in times such as these. We lean on each other, and we support each other. All of the schools are participating in a fund raiser to help the families. It's what we do.
As I was talking to the principal last week, I asked her, "Just think what would have happened if this would have happened a month later?"
She replied, "You mean during ISTEP?"
ISTEP is our state-mandated standardized assessment. Educators have many conversations about how testing is an unfair snapshot of a student. What if that student was having a bad day, or had gone through an upsetting event at home, or a number of other situations.
If these tragedies would have been during our testing window, it would have affected the entire school - students, teachers, and administrators. The results would have been tied to teacher evaluations and salaries. How fair would this have been? We often talk about how situations could affect particular students' results; this would have affected so much more. Although we have several weeks before testing begins, I am sure the results will still not be a true reflection of these students and teachers due to the stress and trauma they have all endured.
I do not mean to diminish the loss or to not be compassionate by talking about testing when lives have been lost. I hope people do not think less of me for writing about both of these in the same post. This week has made me think beyond the tragedies. They have made me stop and shake my head and wonder about the state of our education system.
My prayers continue to go out to these students and their families.