Teacher on testing: We did everything state asked. Didn’t matter.

Sometimes, I get a column submission that nails it. Here’s one of them. Christine Cato, a third-grade teacher from Vidalia City, sheds some light on why Georgia teacher are feeling frustrated right now.

By Christine Cato

When the state of Georgia said, “You have to make sure you differentiate all of your lessons to meet the needs of each individual student,” I said, “Absolutely.”

When the state said, “Your students learn better when they are able to collaborate with each other in small groups,” I said, “You got it!”

When the state of Georgia said, “Move away from paper/pencil assessments. Instead, have your students create a product,” I said, “Sounds like fun!” When the state said, “Kids are kinesthetic learners…don’t make them sit in their desks all day­. They need to move around,” I said, “Anything for my students!”

Then the state said, “Now, we’re going to evaluate and assess that you’ve been doing all of these things. To do that, we need your students to have silent engagement for over 12 hours crammed into a five-­day period. They cannot talk­; it may invalidate the testing. They cannot move around more than 10 minutes during an hour-and-twenty-minute testing session. It may invalidate the testing. The testing will be standardized, regardless of where your students were when they came to you. They are going to have to bubble their answers. We hope they’ve had some practice with that.”

Then the state added, “You know what else will be fun? We’ll have third graders read two essays, and then construct their own essay comparing and contrasting the ideas they read about. Sure, the kind of thing we started doing in middle school back in our day. We know some of your students came to you still struggling with blending sounds. Yeah, sure, this task might be disheartening to those who are not yet developmentally ready. Okay, maybe some kids will break down and cry because this is just way too difficult; we want to see who can do it. Stop focusing on the negatives, you silly teachers.”

“And,” the state continued, “we thought it would be fun to have at least one grade at each school take the test on the computer. What do you mean fifth graders can’t type? What have you guys been doing all year? You think they might need more time to write their essays and type them in? Nah…they’ll be good.

“Now, guys, we know that last year we didn’t have this thing graded and back to you for seven months. That was just us, working out the bugs in the system. Perfectly acceptable. This year, we guarantee we’ll have the results back to you in two weeks. How? Don’t worry about it! When has the state ever let you down?”

So we did it. We did everything. Everything the state asked us to do. Every little thing.

And the results? The state’s and local school districts’ servers weren’t capable of all of the traffic for the tiny, little testing window they created. Computers crashed. Students lost their work and had to start over. Some kids had to sit around for hours, waiting for problems to be resolved. Kids cried. Some quit. My school system mailed back our “paper/pencil” assessments on Friday.

On Sunday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story stating the state had already decided not to count the Milestones End of Grade tests this year. Five days of testing, 12 hours for my 9-year-olds. Countless tears. For nothing.

As for myself, I am a Georgia public schoolteacher. That is what I do. That is who I am. I love my students. I love my bright, capable students. I love my struggling students. I will advocate for my students. I will fight for my students. I will meet every need that I can.

People wonder what is wrong with education. The state of Georgia asks all the time, “Why are so many teachers leaving education?” I guess that one will remain a mystery. Maybe the person at the state who sends me a survey once a week can figure it out.

Reader Comments 0

189 comments
Jessica Wren
Jessica Wren

REFUSE THIS TEST!!! 3rd - 8th graders do NOT have to take the Milestones! I refused for my 5th grader in Gwinnett county last year with zero issues. Join the group Opt Out Georgia to learn your rights as a parent and how to protect your kids and their teachers!

Ryan Mclean
Ryan Mclean

Great thing to teach your child….you do know that they will be having to take tests their whole life especially when in high school.

Allan Watkins
Allan Watkins

The gadoe was told the platform for this wouldnt properly accommodate peak demands. Purchased anyways. Would have saved tax payers millions should that specific high capacity compute requirement been put in a cloud platform. But I'm sure they will demand millions more to build more compute power that still won't be enough vs. Pay a couple of hundred thousand for the system power the few days a year it's needed.

Ugaboss
Ugaboss

Keep putting those Republicans in office.

Amy Carpenter Dubis
Amy Carpenter Dubis

Great article Christine Barclay Cato . Speaks volumes about what teachers are asked to do , and for what? I am sure students learned all across the state, but the state and systems won't know it. What will this do to CCRPI and school takeovers or does that not count either? It always looks good on paper. . . .

Ed Krickel
Ed Krickel

Georgia testing sucks! It is flawed, off target and really freaking expensive to get these results. Rocket science?? Maybe. Or should Teachers just be allowed to teach!

Casey Pope
Casey Pope

Milestones is synonymous with failure and torture. The GADOE will either create a new test or rename this one since many parents are refusing the test for their children.

John Sukroo
John Sukroo

The outdated computer systems at most Georgia schools made it inevitable that this would be a disaster.

Lorrie Parr Angell
Lorrie Parr Angell

Just get rid of the milestones! Get the taxpayer money back. Epic Fail!

Bob Doty
Bob Doty

Neither the teachers, nor the kids, should suffer due to incompetence of the state bureaucrats. Fire them all, and let God sort it out.

Sonja Robinson
Sonja Robinson

My 8th grader sat in her school's gym for 7 days... All day doing absolutely nothing because her name wasn't showing up in the districts database. Just crazy!!!

Frustrated in GA
Frustrated in GA

So what does all this mean for the retesting required of students who fail? Should we be spending additional money to retest for something that won't count? Our county is retesting the last three days of school. The poor kiddos will need to be retaking the Milestones test their last few days of school! If that isn't cruel and unusual punishment for you, I don't know what is!

Mary Dabbs
Mary Dabbs

I'm one of the Georgia teachers who left teaching.  That was in 1959 after a year and a half, first teaching on the stage in a noisy cafeteria and then, the first year of the track system, teaching the "Basic Group" in in a tiny room meant to be the infirmary. That year, the principal told me that all the students should get better grades than they had the year before so that the parents would like the track system. This year, two of my grandsons endured all the testing, which was exhausting and unpleasant, and I doubt if they care if the test results are trashed or not, they are just glad the ridiculous ordeal is over. Politicians always claim to support education, but they will not do it unless informed parents demand it.


Rhonda Kiser Ledbetter
Rhonda Kiser Ledbetter

I have a simple solution for this chaos. Parents need to REFUSE to allow their kids to take any standardized test. Thank you. That is all. \U0001f604

EastAtlanta
EastAtlanta

This is what happens when politicians get involved in education, and when state and local public school bureaucracies grow to gargantuan sizes. Check out the size of the metro system's central office staffs! And please, let's get politicians OUT of the day to day decision making in our schools. As for standardized testing, who says we need it? Politicians.

JessicaAmes
JessicaAmes

Love it. So true. I have twin 3rd graders and 2 other kids and I teach high school. I'm so fed up with all this. If you want us to bust our booties working hard for kids, and I totally agree we should, then it should benefit them. 

DDstarbucks
DDstarbucks

This teacher could be telling my story.  We have a similar situation in New York.  

Lori Forest Libby
Lori Forest Libby

The same thing happened last year with our state test. All the time, energy and effort for nothing. The state of Maine threw out the test. This year, same style test but with different questions, not sure what the difference is, but they are done and now we wait until the fall to get results. My 5th graders will be 6th graders by then, but next years teachers can use them. Oh, the worst thing about our state testing? Our Special Education children maybe working on 3rd grade math, but he/she will be tested on 5th grade material along with their age mates. How does that tell us, as teachers or as a school, anything but you all stink?

FormerGAteacher
FormerGAteacher

I gave my home state the first 14 years of my career. In 2008, I stated that my then 2 year old would not attend school in the state of Georgia. I had our things packed up the summer of 2010 and left. While there is no perfect state or school district, you would have to pry me away from Maryland. Yes, it is expensive and the taxes are ridiculous, but my pros far outweigh the cons.

John Taylor
John Taylor

It doesnt take 5 years to learn arithmetic and literacy unless you tell schools to babysit your kids...so they play it out take as long as possible. its also great for teaching jobs long term contracts! Its not the 1800s we have software, info graphics entertaining learning videos to help kids learn faster and better. Time to scrap bricks and mortar schools!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Dude. You get some non-motivated middle/high school students and hook them up to your "infographics" to learn a year's worth of standards, and then get back to me - hey you may be the Steve Jobs of education - I don't know.

Lydia Heaster Street
Lydia Heaster Street

Such a waste of time!! My 3rd grade son studied, studied, studied...preparing for months. The week of testing he was worried sick about whether or not he'd do well enough to pass his grade. Kids at this age shouldn't have this amount of stress put on them! And especially for it to not count!!! Makes me so angry. And the poor teachers.....I won't even get into that. So glad I am not one. The state needs to stop asking why teachers are quitting. They know or at least they sould.

Jimbo Echols
Jimbo Echols

This is happening in Haralson County alternative schools they could give less with kids with disabilities

Laura Locke Van Tassel
Laura Locke Van Tassel

SO awesome Chris! You hit the nail right on the head & something has to change!!! My daughter is in 3rd grade (my favorite age to teach, btw) & she was SO stressed out about not passing & moving on to 4th grade. She's an A/B student!!! It's absolutely ridiculous to stress our kids, teachers & parents like this. What happened to the creativity & flexibility of teaching. Kudos to you for advocating for us teachers & getting your article published for the state to see!!! \U0001f618

SavTeacher
SavTeacher

Thank you Christine Cato. Teachers have to take the lead in conversations that impact our schools and our students. It is time all teachers stand up and let people know there has to be a change. We are working hard and we have to begin to direct the dialogue for we are in the schools, not big business and not politicians!

Mjtm1958
Mjtm1958

The state of Georgia is ridiculously absurd! Idiots that should have to refund the salary they do not deserve! Furious does not describe teacher emotion after this fiasco! Education is in the sewer statewide, countywide, and school wide!

Stephanie Maxwell
Stephanie Maxwell

This is another jump on the band wagon situation!! No one investigated the system across the board before saying they were going to purchase it for all schools to use!! They definitely didn't think about the servers that would be needed to provide service for all of the students to take the test at one time or even half of the students in the school to take the test at one time\U0001f633\U0001f629\U0001f621!! They need to get rid of all the testing anyway! It is just nonsense and it doesn't really prove anything because some people don't test well and it causes anxiety in the children and the teacher! Now since all of this has happened...who's doing surveys on the state for this mess up??? That's my question!

jerryeads
jerryeads

Seth, that's a good argument for vouchers :-) - (and I've long been strongly against such).

But it's the KIDS who can benefit from more resources, not the testing companies. People all too often say "money doesn't matter" and yet look at the difference between the quality of education in (for example) Gwinnett or Cobb with all the local additional tax base and that of the rural counties that have only the state distribution (with it's severe "austerity" cuts).

JP212
JP212

Follow the money: Standardized testing is a $2 billion industry with lobbyists in every statehouse and the U.S. Capitol. 

sethandrews22
sethandrews22

What's perplexing is that we can read stories like this over and over and yet the answer shouted most loudly by one party is still "more money!" Is it an wonder that parents are clamoring for options beyond the local public school?

Jana Hogsten LaFlair
Jana Hogsten LaFlair

My heart breaks for the children having to deal with these worthless tests and all of the pressure they feel from teachers, admins, peers and parents put on them to perform well. It negates any positive learning experience they may have had. We withdrew our child from public school when she was in 7th grade. Best decision ever for her. She home schools and goes to a co-op for high school classes. She is excelling, virtually stress free and is enjoying being a kid. Today it seems like education trumps having a good childhood. We just need to teach kids how to think and problem solve plus develop a love of learning.

class80olddog
class80olddog

The same PC police that have destroyed education are now trying to destroy the justice system.  They are banning the terms "felons" and "convicts" because they hurt the criminals' feelings!

Marine_SNCO
Marine_SNCO

@class80olddog so you feel that if a person breaks the law and serves his/her time.  do everything that the state requires them to do, they should still be labeled "felon" and/or "convict?"  if that is the case and you advocate for a lifelong title, why even send them to jail?  if someone will for the rest of their life have to be branded for what they did, 5 - 10 - 15 - 20 years ago, they there is no need to do any jail/prison time.  

threespeed
threespeed

@Marine_SNCO @class80olddog They are labelled "felon" because they are a felon. They are labelled "convict" because they are a convict. The way not to have these labels apply is to not do the unlawful acts that earned the label to start with. By the way, crime goes down when they go to jail. Crime goes up when they are not in jail. This is all simple, unless or course your mind is a progressive mess. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Marine_SNCO @class80olddog  They are what they are.  Being convicted of a crime means you had a certain character flaw. It takes a very long time to have that tattoo fade away.  If you stay clean and prove yourself to be trustworthy, admit you made a mistake, and do whatever you can to make restitution, then you slowly regain acceptance into society. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@class80olddog @Marine_SNCO So you should be labeled for all time as a "speeder" or a "failer to stop at stop signs" or "he who runs red lights" or he who...... It would go on your "permanent record".

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @class80olddog @Marine_SNCO A lot of crime is a product of adolescence. Check the Juvenile Courts, which are packed with 14 year olds.  The adult arraignments are loaded with 17-25 year olds.  Many of these kids, largely male, will grow out of it, calm down, go back to school or get a job. A terrific way to speed the process is to join the military, if your adolescent offenses don't disqualify you, or it's wartime and they'll take you anyway. 


Georgia could change the "First Offender" law so that no guilty plea is required, and military and government would honor what is basically a one time amnesty.


That's one side of the coin. On the other, unless your one time offense is armed robbery, or rape, or something serious you won't get a prison sentence and if you do it won't be long.  The way to earn a prison sentence is to be a repeat offender, repeatedly.  Some people's adolescence lasts until middle age. These are people who need to be in prison, along with the 5% of every racial or National group who are mentally warped and dangerous throughout their lives. 


Legalize pot. It's harmless. Traffic offenses aren't crimes, just an alternative way to collect local taxes. 



Tony C.
Tony C.

In the private sector heads would have rolled - managers and supervisors (superintendents and administrators) would have been fired. No questions asked. Just put on the street. Depending on the final tally for total money wasted even the CEO (Governor) would be fired. We could only be so lucky.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Tony C. Like when all the bank and hedge fund CEO's and upper staff were fired during the mortgage debacle?

P Taylor Bryan
P Taylor Bryan

This is horrible! I abhors standardized testing.