Testing season is upon us for some or has just passed for others. It is always a time of stress and anxiety for the subjects that are tested. Even those of us that are not tested feel some of the strain. I am not one of those teachers that has to directly deal with testing and am usually at war with myself about my feelings on testing. I am relieved that I do not have the testing stress that other teachers have, but at the same time I feel like my subject has been slighted and diminished to a subject that is not as important.
I teach social studies in Missouri at the secondary level and have never experienced what it is like to be a tested subject. In Missouri the only thing that is tested in my content is government which is taken by seniors at my school. There really isn't much pressure on me as teacher except to do some things that support government so that when students get to government, they will hopefully have some foundation.
When I taught middle school there was even less pressure on me as my only experience dealing with testing was an encouragement to support English teachers by having activities that included reading and writing. Honestly I would do that anyway because I think it a good practice and skill for any person and especially as a social scientist.
Many of my co-workers have told me that I should feel lucky that I don't have to worry about the stress of jumping through the testing hoops. Honestly I am happy that I don't have to worry about it. I don't agree with testing and I don't really feel that the tests that have been created really tell us if they are learning, but it is what we use so we have to deal with it. However, even though I’m not an advocate for state testing I have always been bothered by the fact that they don't test social studies because of the message it sends to schools, parents, students, and communities. It sends the message that social science and social studies is not as important as the other subjects.
In my career I have had the conversation with students and parents about why it matters for them to take history classes when they aren't tested. I recognize that this is a subject that I love dearly and am probably biased when it comes to its level of importance in every single person's daily life, but I have come to realize in our current society that we have lost what it means to be a citizen... I don't mean the legal requirements of being a citizen but the knowledge required to participate in our society and understand the significance and meaning behind it. Dealing with the big issues of our day are all relevant and many are connected to the social sciences. The lack of testing just reinforces the sense that this subject isn't as important as its counterparts.
I realize that I am probably overreacting and to be honest I do enjoy the freedom that is allowed to me as teacher that doesn't have to teach a very specific curriculum for the test. I have the freedom to evaluate my standards and create learning experiences wrapped around needs that I see in my different classes. I also realize that I am not alone in teaching a subject that seems to be undervalued or that as teacher we all recognize that the learning experience is more important than the test, but we are all stuck in this give and take of balancing learning and testing. I am not even sure that I would want social studies to be more heavily tested because I don't like testing, but I am frustrated as a teacher that wants her subject to be valued and understood. I think that is really what it boils down to. I want all of us in education to be taken seriously and valued like we should be.
I guess my message in this post is this: teachers that are not tested are both envious and relieved at the prospect of not being tested. We love the freedom but wish to be taken more seriously. My hope for the future of education is that we come together as an education community and show our country and community how important all our subjects are and how they work together to create a citizen that can participate in our society.