PAT Accountability

I’ve started getting my kids ready to write their PAT’s next week.  No, it doesn’t mean they’ve done tons of practice tests and no it doesn’t mean that I’m no longer teaching curriculum in order to test prep.  We’ve simply been practising good reading skills and becoming problem solver “detectives”.  We’ve talked about where to start when a problem seems too big or like it has too many pieces to solve.  We’ve discussed how to use our logic to determine what a “reasonable” answer looks like and why estimation is so important.

Why am I doing this?  Quite simply put, it has nothing to do with wanting them to “score well” on the PATs, it has to do with me wanting them to feel confident and alleviate the anxiety that they are placing on their own shoulder and that, yes it happens, their parents are placing there too.  Honestly, I can’t wait to see them hit the road.  Knowing I only have to do one more year of this makes me happy.

It was suggested to me VERY STRONGLY by a friend and parent that PATs should be staying as part of the examination process in 3, 6, and 9.  She went so far as to say that this was a way to “go slack” on teachers and not make them “accountable” for anything anymore.  This was letting them off the hook.

I let her rant for awhile while I quietly drank my coffee.  I listened to how she thought this was a good way to find out what kind of teacher her son had and what kind of quality of education he was receiving.  When she was done with her rather long speech, I paused and then said this:

What if I told you that I was going to take your son for an hour, say…..about the third week of August (right before we head back to school and parents nerves are wearing thin as school approaches).  I’ll take him for that hour, maybe with an extra half hour if I think I need it.  I’ll watch him play, interact with other children, ask him some questions and then based on that 60 – 90 minutes at that specific time I will judge/evaluate your worth as a parent.  I will make all my decisions about your quality of parenting and your ability to raise your son based on that 90 minutes with him.

Hey, sometimes this judgement doesn’t even take a quality 90 minutes assessment, right?  Ask anyone who’s ever had a child have a complete meltdown in Walmart and faced the disapproving frowns of other people who’ve just sized you up as a parent.

Snap judgements.  Gotta love ’em.  And that’s what a PAT is.  It’s a snapshot.

My kids have already written their PAT stories, they did so back in May.  And they will each get a score.  Excellent, Proficient, etc……

But it won’t tell the story.  It won’t let you know about that kid who struggled to write two complete sentences at the beginning of the year and how even dragging that much out of him caused tears.  It won’t let you know that kid now writes (types) nearly a full page with a story that doesn’t quite make sense but has a main character and the beginning of a plot. It will tell you that his spelling is atrocious but it won’t tell you that he’s now trying to spell words that are lengthy, descriptive, and better than basic vocabulary.  It won’t let you know that when he handed it in he told me with great pride in his voice, “This is the BEST story I’ve ever written…..”

And I smile because even though I know he’s going to receive a failing grade, he has come so far and made so much progress.  To hear him speak with pride and a smile on his face about writing far outweighs the tears he had at the beginning of the year.  There’s also the fact that he will willing put pen to paper again that says it all.  This frustrated writer in September with barely two sentences to his name, is now a willing writer in May.

But he’s going to fail….so I suck as a teacher, don’t I?

Clearly the quality of education going on in my classroom is sub-par.  That’s ok.  Go ahead and judge me that way.  Take all my hard work and my dedication and boil it down to a number.  Slot me on a scale based on my class average and look down at me when the child doesn’t achieve a passing grade.  Call me names, point fingers, and judge me all you want.

All I see is his smile when he walks out of my classroom.



About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
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