by Regina Brett
Tuesday July 22, 2008, 3:10 PM
Regina BrettThe school report cards came out in June.
Rocky River Middle School passed the 2008 Ohio Achievement Tests, earned an Excellent rating from the state and met the requirements for Annual Yearly Progress.
For all of those accomplishments, Principal David Root has only one thing to say to the students, staff and citizens of Rocky River:
Root wants to issue an apology. He sent it to me typed out in two pages, single spaced.
He's sorry that he spent thousands of tax dollars on test materials, practice tests, postage and costs for test administration.
Sorry that his teachers spent less time teaching American history because most of the social studies test questions are about foreign countries.
Sorry that he didn't suspend a student for assaulting another because that student would have missed valuable test days.
Sorry he didn't strictly enforce attendance because all absences count against the school on the State Report Card.
He's sorry for pulling children away from art, music and gym, classes they love, so they could take test-taking strategies.
Sorry that he has to give a test where he can't clarify any questions, make any comments to help in understanding or share the results so students can actually learn from their mistakes.
Sorry that he kept students in school who became sick during the test because if they couldn't finish the test due to illness, the student automatically fails it.
Sorry that the integrity of his teachers is publicly tied to one test.
He apologized for losing eight days of instruction due to testing activities.
For making decisions on assemblies, field trips and musical performances based on how that time away from reading, math, social studies and writing will impact state test results.
For arranging for some students to be labeled "at risk" in front of their peers and put in small groups so the school would have a better chance of passing tests.
For making his focus as a principal no longer helping his staff teach students but helping them teach test indicators.
Root isn't anti-tests. He's all for tests that measure progress and help set teaching goals. But in his eyes, state achievement tests are designed for the media to show how schools rank against each other.
He's been a principal for 24 years, half of them at Rocky River Middle School, the rest in Hudson, Alliance and Zanesville. He loves working with 6th, 7th and 8th graders.
"I have a strong compassion for the puberty stricken," he joked.
His students, who are 11, 12, 13 and 14, worry that teachers they love will be let go based on how well they perform.
One asked him, "If I don't do well, will you fire my teacher?"
He cringed when he heard one say, "I really want to do well, but I'm not that smart."
He wants students to learn how to think, not take tests.
"We don't teach kids anymore," he said. "We teach test-taking skills. We all teach to the test. I long for the days when we used to teach kids."
Unless we get back to those days, principals and teachers all over Ohio will continue to spend your tax dollars to help students become the best test takers they can be.