OEA Guest Blog By Courtney Johnson, Columbus Education Association
I am a high school English teacher turned school librarian at Columbus Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School. Literacy is my life’s work. I’m a National Board-Certified English teacher with a reading endorsement and a Master’s in Library Science.
I spend my days working with students and teachers, helping them find books, conduct research, and write essays. I help run a free school store in the library’s auxiliary space for students in need.
During the fall 2018-19 administration of state-mandated tests, I spent three weeks — 15 instructional days — away from the job that I love.
“I love my job…. Yet, I felt complicit in a crime.”
Instead, I administered nearly 900 end-of-course test retakes. This meant that for three weeks our students did not have access to the resources of the school library or librarian.
DIFFICULT THREE WEEKS FOR EVERYONE
Unfortunately, I was not the only one negatively impacted during those three weeks.
These assessments also tied up our two school counselors, who should be able to spend their days supporting students in crisis and helping them plan for their futures. Educators across our school were pulled away from instructional time to help meet the need for test administrators.
Intervention Specialists, who are required to serve all students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP), lost a combined 22 hours of traditional instruction time in providing necessary extended-time and small-groupings for students, some needing to retake all seven tests.
We all lost no less than three weeks of valuable instructional time.
AN EMPTY SEAT
Shakespeare once wrote, “Grief fills up the room of my absent child.” We all suffer when students are absent from classes. During this three-week period, that grief took on many forms.
One Senior tried coming to school late to avoid the test, and then refused to leave her English class. Our school safety officer was able to convince her to come to the library to take the test. She wasn’t alone.
Day after day, I watched as Seniors dragged themselves to our school library for the tests.
Our library is a place normally vibrant and alive — just ask any of the 270 student participants of my school’s book club. However, as a designated testing area, the library had become a place filled sleepy-eyed students with defeated spirits. I would hug them, and say, “You’re almost finished. Hang in there.” I did the only thing I knew to do: be kind.
Yet, I felt complicit in a crime. I knew I needed to stand up for them. So, I called my union.
The first outcome was the Convening on Over-Testing, January 26, 2019, in Columbus. More than 80 educators from across the state convened to examine further the issue.
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Call To Action
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