Thursday, March 7, 2013

After High-Stakes Testing: "Chicken Fried"

This week, over the course of three mornings, public high school juniors in New Jersey have been taking a a six-hour test, called the High School Proficiency Assessment, or HSPA (pronounced hess-pah). The stakes are high: students must pass this test to earn a high school diploma.

For Language Arts students, I integrate the skills they need for the HSPA into my lessons all year so by the time junior year rolls around, they know all about how to write expository and persuasive essays because they have practiced those skills with every piece of literature we read. Still, this is a stressful time for struggling students.

I know part of my job is to prepare students to be successful on tests but I never lose sight of why I became a teacher: to help them find their voices as writers, to communicate without words that they have infinite value, that they are so much more than their scores on standardized tests and to share with them the Beauty that exists in the literature we read.

So I was gratified one of my juniors today asked me to play a bit of music in homeroom today - Zac Brown Band's Chicken Fried.  Here it is.  He tells me he loves the message in the lyrics.

 Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
Not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes
There's no dollar sign on a piece of mind, this I've come to know

Who's teaching whom?

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