Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Everybody is a genius, but . . .

"Everybody's a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

In these Ohio Graduation Test and PARCC high stakes testing days, I simply cannot get this quote out of my head.

Because of these tests, are any of our students leaving their testing rooms thinking they are stupid?  I am guessing the answer is yes, and as a high school principal, it pains me greatly.

What if they think they are stupid because our curriculum scope and sequence did not reach one of the topics on the PARCC Geometry?  This is most likely a distinct possibility, for how do we get students ready for a test that we have never seen? Especially in the first year the test is given, despite the best efforts of our district and our staff in their collaborative Professional Learning Community work. Or in English?  Or in Physical Science?

You see, by every external indicator, we are a high-performing high school.  A National Blue Ribbon School, one of only 41 high schools in the nation the year we were selected and less than half of those were public.  On the International PISA test, we outscored the highest performing school system in the world, Shanghai, in reading, math and science, and in Ohio, we had the highest PI score on last year's Ohio Graduation Test of any other public high school in Ohio.

We have wonderfully hard-working students, educated parents who value education, and a staff that is committed to the best Professional Learning Community principles every day, in every classroom, for every class period, for every student.

And yet, in this era of new generation assessments such as PARCC, I feel that our students are leaving the assessments feeling like a fish required to climb a tree-- hopeless.

Schools should be places full of hope, full of dreams, for every single student.  IEP students. English Language Learner students, 504 students, AP students, IB students, Hispanic students, Muslim students.  All students. Every student.

My daughter is a high school ELL teacher who wrote a beautiful post Defeated about her wonderful, motivated students who work so hard for her.  But they too, most likely, feel like a fish being tested on how well he climbs a tree.

Normally we enter testing with staff and students brimming with confidence, for we employ best practices and our students always strive to excel.

But after now 5 days of PARCC testing, I worry and wonder, do our students feel like geniuses, for many of them have gifts seen and unseen, or do they feel like fish being judged by their ability to climb a tree.  And if they do, what do we now do to better help and support them?


  1. I am pretty sure most students will leave these tests feeling defeated, I had trouble figuring out what was being asked in the third grade math test. And after spending the last six months building the confidence of my third graders, I am hoping that they don't loose what they have gained...

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to share about your third graders. We all try to build confidence but then we look at their faces and of our colleagues. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You bring up such important points that are on all educators minds right now! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Lindsay. I appreciate you taking the time to write and for point out we all share this common theme.

  3. I love that quote by Albert Einstein. I recognize the sadness and frustration that you're feeling. Read the picture book, Red by Michael Hall. It has a similar theme.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to write and also for your book recommendation. I will fine it and read it. Thanks again!


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