Diane Hyzy: Passion for teaching trumps test scores - The Buffalo News
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Diane Hyzy: Passion for teaching trumps test scores

What is a score? What does it represent? How does it make us feel?

We all begin life with a score. At the time of delivery, infants are given an Apgar score that rates such things as pulse and respiration. I recall the relief of hearing “9 out of 10” when my first son was born. I can only imagine the feeling that a new mother has when the score is low.

Children begin their formal schooling by receiving a score on a kindergarten screening. This information not only allows parents to see what a child knows, but it also helps educators hit the ground running with an academic plan for students who need additional support.

How many of us remember learning how to dive into a pool, wanting a parent to give us a score? If the score was anything less than perfect, it was back to the diving board to try again.

A child’s earliest memory of a score would most likely be the one that was earned on a weekly spelling test. There was something satisfying about seeing the studying pay off with a 20/20 and a shiny sticker at the top of the page.

A teenager who is college-bound has a score that trumps all others – the dreaded SAT. Some students take the test several times hoping for an improved score. When I applied to college, I remember certain schools publicizing the minimum SAT score to be considered for admittance.

Off to college I went with four years’ worth of scores to earn, although none was more important than the score I received on my National Teaching Exam. I read and reread my score report to be sure that I did indeed pass and would be granted provisional certification. For my friends who fell short, it meant retaking the exam in hopes of a passing score.

No venue is more score-focused than athletics. In some it is a win-or-lose situation, while in others it is degrees of success. I am always drawn to watching the Olympics to witness the proverbial thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

One common thread that ties all of these scores together is passion. The score matters, makes us feel worthy and gives us a feeling of validation.

Recently, New York State revealed growth scores to me and my teacher colleagues. This is a new process whereby teachers are given a score based on the academic growth that their students make from one year to the next.

Although we all knew that we were navigating new educational waters, nothing truly prepared us for this new standard. What complicates things even further is that these assessments were given based on national Common Core Standards. No one, not students, teachers or administrators, knew what these assessments would look like or how extensive they would be. Administering these tests, it was evident that they were much more rigorous than previous state assessments.

We were told to prepare for dramatically lower results and this certainly was the case. Receiving these growth scores has been disheartening and demoralizing for many. It is difficult not to attach our strong, consistent efforts with this singular score.

As another school year gets under way, my colleagues and I enter our classrooms with the same passion and determination that led us to this profession in the first place. No score can take the place of that.

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