Age of Awareness
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Age of Awareness

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Image by Katy Sandvoss from Pixabay

The School Email That Pushed Me Over the Edge Today

It’s eleven in the morning, and I have a splitting headache. I just finished an argument with my 12-year-old. Instead of paying attention to his classes online, he was playing video games. The dispute ended in screams and threats to take doors off of hinges.

I take a couple of breaths, composing myself, and sit down to check my email. I’m not surprised to see a message from my son’s school about their return to hybrid learning next week. I’m more than a little relieved, looking forward to some sense of normalcy. Instead of focusing on instruction, I read that they will be dedicating five days to standardized testing after only two days back to school. (Now, for those of you doing the hybrid learning math, that’s one day at school, one day of online learning, next day testing day, then online learning, then another day of testing.)

The email continues. The writer assures me that tests are necessary because they will tell the school how much my child knows. These tests will also help the school determine what courses my child will be in next year. (My headache has now returned.) Let me give a couple of reasons why this makes me angry.

You need a standardized test to tell you how much my child knows? I’ll save you the effort. He’s behind in his classes. Compared to a typical school year where he would be physically in school every day, he’s behind. I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone; his teachers, the school, the school district, or the state.

You need a standardized test to tell you where to place my child in next year’s classes? We are now determining my son’s class schedule after five months of disarray. It’s like Covid never happened. It’s incredible how testing mandates can magically erase reality. Maybe if I go back to school and take the SATs, I feel normal again too.

Sorry….my head hurts. I’m not mad at the teachers. I’m not mad at my school’s administrator. But, to be quite honest, I’m infuriated with the district and state bureaucrats who have imposed this situation on us. My family has spent the last five months of this school year in a Covid bubble of stress. My new “stay at home mom” status has not made distance learning magically achievable. It’s not. And this is a former teacher talking. (Imagine those parents who are not at home continually to monitor their children.) Since August, we’ve dealt with the uncertainty of school. We flipped from hybrid to distance, to hybrid. We even received multiple emails of Covid outbreaks. We’ve abided by state and local pandemic guidelines and quarantines. We canceled vacations, birthday parties, sports, club memberships, visits to grandparents, even routine doctor’s visits. My sons rarely, if ever, see their friends. They’ve spent months cloistered away with their parents, which is the pre-teen equivalent to doing your taxes. This is not a normal situation and not a normal year. And yet, despite all of this, my son’s school district has decided that the most important thing we must focus on once students return to school is a test. An assessment to see if they’re keeping up.

It’s incredible how testing mandates can magically erase reality.

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s angry. I guarantee you most of my son’s teachers just want to use the first days back in school to connect with their students and get back on track. Trying to reach out and motivate adolescents online is like herding cats, reducing great teachers to tears. These teachers know students have fallen behind. They want to have the opportunity to make sure all their students master their class. But their district is telling them, time out, teachers. Our priority is the test.

To all of you that will ensure me that testing is necessary, and give me the party line, save your breath. I’m too tired to listen to condescension. If you sincerely want my child to succeed at school, you wouldn’t be focusing on the test right now. If you genuinely want to support families, as all your district emails assure me, you might want to listen to families. Because in the end, what’s more important: educating students or preserving the administrative calendar?



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Shelley Buchanan, M.A.

Shelley Buchanan, M.A.


Former educator, school librarian, and school technology coordinator. Learning will set you free.