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Letters to the Editor for April 30, 2015

The following letters to the editor were submitted for April 30 publication. Readers are encouraged to submit their own views. For guidelines, see the Bartlett Express policy for letters to the editor.

Obsession with testing damages school system

Editor’s note: Jennifer Proseus delivered the following remarks during the public commentary section of the April 14 Bartlett city board meeting.

pencil-test-answersI serve as PTA President at Rivercrest Elementary. Our Rivercrest PTA unanimously voted to adopt a Resolution against testing last year. This resolution was also adopted by the Shelby County Council PTA, which represents the legacy SCS, of which, all of the Bartlett schools belong to.

I am here to talk about testing, and although I call it “TCAP,” I am also referring to all of the additional tests that are not mandated by state law but are none-theless required by the state to feed the data monster. This includes the computerized benchmark testing, screeners, RTI interventions and pilot tests. With the TCAP test coming up next week, this pressure-cooker testing climate that has been building all year is reaching a boiling point, and I must speak up.

Last week, I asked my own children to count up how many times they heard “TCAP” at school for a day. My fourth-grade daughter came home from school and pulled up her sleeve. She’d written tally marks on her arm in ink every time she heard, “TCAP.” Nine times in one day. Coincidentally, my seventh-grade child had counted 9 times that day, as well. That is a lot! Multiply that times all the days since spring break when the TCAP became a priority. Our children get the message loud and clear that these tests are very important to adults.

Other parents in our district have complained to me about the testing, too. Homework loads have increased this month with thick test-prep packets. While waiting to use the restroom, children are being quizzed on TCAP questions by well-intentioned teachers. Children who normally love school now dread it. They tell me their children are experiencing headaches and stomach aches. They are stressed out. One Bartlett mom told me her child’s skin breaks out in rashes due to the anxiety from testing. My own children have both been diagnosed with anxiety due to TCAP testing. I feel their pain. This isn’t right. It is making children hate school.
It isn’t just the pressure on our children. It is on teachers and administrators, too. I am opposed to how these test scores are used to evaluate my children’s teachers and our schools. These tests don’t tell me anything that I do not already know about my children.

I do not want my children to take these tests. I do not want their scores possibly harming their teachers. I refuse for my children to be pawns in this grownup testing game. But I am told they must be given the test if they are at school. The state says I have no right as a parent to prevent them from being offered this test that I think is harmful to them. I’m tempted to pull my children from public schools to homeschool to escape this testing craziness, but before I do, I am compelled to try to make it better for all children.

Bartlett board members and superintendent Stephens, we need you to take action. I have talked with some of you already about this. I understand that it is the state and federal government’s fault for passing laws that force the local level to comply, and I understand you’ve been overwhelmed opening a new municipal school this year, but excuses aren’t cutting it. They aren’t making it better for children or teachers. I had high hopes that a new Bartlett school district would mean that the testing obsession would lessen or stop, but I’m sad to report that it seems worse than ever. It seems like tests are more important than students. It must stop. Therefore, I am requesting these 3 things of you:

  • Our Bartlett School Board adopt a Resolution against testing and against the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. This will send a clear message to our state legislature and new appointed commissioner.
  • Don’t use TVAAS to hire and base salaries upon. We have local control. Can we not go back to the old evaluation model? Or come up with one that doesn’t terrify teachers? Let our teachers know that they are more important than a rigged test or a secret mathematical formula. Trust and empower teachers to be the professionals they are.
  • I am asking that Superintendent Stephens please tell principals and teachers to not make such an incredibly big deal out of TCAP: The TCAP pep rallies, t-shirts, themed days, TCAP songs, the younger grades “adopting” the older TCAP testers, asking parents to write encouraging notes to their testing children, teachers calling their students the night before TCAP to make sure they are in bed getting plenty of rest, etc.

All of these well-intentioned things just feed the testing monster. Bring it back to the days when I was a student at Altruria Elementary and we just took a test, no strings attached. No bribery. No labels. No pressure. No worries. No big deal.

Thank you for hearing me. These tests have had too much importance for too long. Please help me make this testing madness stop.

Jennifer Proseus
Arlington, Tenn.


Former Bartlett teacher asks who recalls her class

BCS-small-logoTo all former Elmore Park Elementary and Kate Bond Elementary students who were in Ms. Barbara’s class: either second grade or kindergarten class.In May I will be 80 years old. For my birthday I am asking my former students, their parents, and fellow teachers to contact me.

I am interested in knowing something you remember that you enjoyed in my class. NOT I liked Ms. Barbara, I had fun or she was a good teacher. Instead an activity, trip, story, game, or a special moment etc. is what I am interested in learning. Also, what are you doing today? Are you a mom or dad? Are you working and if so, doing what?

As for me, I have retired to Florida, where I teach an occasional class in CPR or hurricane survival skills. I lead an occasional class on teaching in the kindergarten, assist in teaching segments from the CERT curriculum and also I enjoy playing and teaching my 2 1/2-year-old great-granddaughter.

I plan to use the information to share with other teachers. If you are a teacher and would like to receive a copy of the items I receive, you are welcome to also e-mail me or drop me a line. I will be very happy to share any educational information I receive with you.

My e-mail address is abramsb@yahoo.com. Please put “BIRTHDAY” in the subject line so I know your e-mail isn’t spam. My phone number is (561) 330-9768. My mailing address is:

Ms. Barbara Abrams
Rainberry Bay
764 NW 29 Ave #A
Delray Beach, FL33445

I look forward to hearing from you all.

Fondly,

Ms. Barbara

Editor’s note: Adams taught in Bartlett schools for 24 years (20 at Elmore Park Elementary and four at Kate Bond Elementary). Before that, she taught at the University of Memphis preschool/kindergarten, now known as the Barbara K. Lipman School.

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