U.K. School Sends Unbelievable Letter To Students Over Standardized Test Scores

Viral letterStandardized tests are the bane of every parent, teacher and child’s existence. Show me a kid who says they love taking standardized tests, and I’ll show you a kid whose pants are just moments from spontaneous combustion. The pressure put on kids to perform on these exams is higher than ever, and it’s not unheard of for parents to spend hundreds or even thousands on test prep or tutors. Back in the Triassic era when I was growing up, I was the type of kid who would have panic attacks right before test day, the pressure was so high. So any time I see a story like this school in the United Kingdom who sent an unbelievably heartwarming letter of support to their students regarding testing make the onion cutting ninjas come out to play.

According to Today, Barrowford Primary School in the U.K. sent a touching letter to their students regarding the KS2 exam, which is is designed to measure math, reading, spelling, punctuation, and grammar abilities. From the letter:

“These tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique,” the letter reads, in part. “The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you the way your teachers do, the way I hope to and certainly not the way your families do . . . The scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.”

I wish this type of thing happened more often in my part of the world. I’m unsure of how it works in the U.K., but in the United States a lot of school funding is dependent on how well the student body does on specific standardized tests. According to some of my teacher friends, this often forces them to teach to the test or face their students doing poorly on exams tied to school funding. And considering how poorly-funded many schools are already, this doesn’t leave a lot of room for alternative teaching methods or working with students who don’t fit the mold that standardized testing is trying to make

(Photo: Facebook)

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  • Lackadaisical

    I realise you got the letter from somewhere else online, but it shows the name of the kid, his primary school and the address of his primary school.

    I don’t think SATs results affect a schools funding but they do go towards league table placements and they will also be viewed by OFSTED, the government group who inspect all childcare and give ratings to schools and playgroups. When parents choose what school to send their kid to they look at the OFSTED rating and look at the league tables. Secondary schools tend to ignore the SATs results of their new intake of 11 year olds and often would rather test the kids themselves informally to gauge what set to put them in. Schools have SATs in year 2 (6-7 year olds) and year 6 (10-11 year olds) but the results are important enough to the schools that many people think that they focus too much on preparing kids for the exams. It all depends on the head teacher and senior staff, really. Some schools go SATs crazy and expect year 6 pupils to arrive an hour early every day for extra lessons, which pretend to be a club, but that is rather extreme and most schools wouldn’t go that far. The school my kids are at had a term of an after school club for a small group in English comprehension selected because the school thought they could get the most benefit from extra time, and the term after there was a term of extra maths lessons once a week where all year 6 pupils were invited. A lot of parents were upset by this as they felt that the preparation for SATs should really be the entire school career rather than a year of cramming exam techniques. The extra lesson “clubs” were about an hour a week, so not as much as many schools but still extra out of school hours lessons.

    • Korine

      The child’s mother posted the letter herself. I don’t think the onus is on anyone else to censor the info at this point :)

    • BexleyS

      Year 6 sats results are very important in schools and the headteacher’s salary is based upon the results. If the overall score falls below the floor level Ofsted and the government are informed and it triggers all kinds of shit. I’ve met plenty of year 6 teachers who don’t spend the whole year with their kids cramming for exams but those teachers work in schools where the kids would get the results regardless. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in 2 schools in incredibly deprived areas where these kids need a significant amount of help and support. It’s stressful for everyone. With regards to SAT’s being across the whole school career, the last school I worked in actually did optional SAT’s every year and the children were expected to get the right results for that year or we were dragged in and questioned. It was shit because from year 3 those poor kids were tested constantly. Standardised testing achieves very little, it is all for the school and does nothing for the kids at all. We have the most tested children in the world yet the results don’t reflect that at all and it’s not because every teacher isn’t working themselves into the ground. Something has to change.

    • Lackadaisical

      Thanks for the clarification. That is far too much pressure to put on a school and parents are also unhappy with the situation. It is ridiculous seeing so much pressure on kids of that age.

    • BexleyS

      I always tell kids I know (from other schools – I don’t want to get sacked) that the results actually mean nothing at all and not to feel pressured. The pressure is on the school, not them. It doesn’t affect what happens at high school and nobody is going to pay any attention to those results (apart from parents of course). It’s horrible to put pressure on the kids and it’s wrong but the pressure from above is crazy!

    • Lackadaisical

      I have yet to meet a teacher who thinks SATs are a good idea. My eldest just did his year 6 SATs and the kids were so worried about them. Some of the kids were submitted for the level 6 maths paper and the build up for that was a big anxiety mess even during year 5 as the year 5 and 6 classes do maths together. My son is top set but wasn’t one of the ones submitted, a decision I respect and defer to the teacher on as I trust them to know the kids’ academic potential best, so he was all wound up with fear about doing it before they chose who to submit and then worried that he was a failure when they didn’t put him in. Personally I suspect that as he has a history of anxiety that may be part of why they didn’t put him in for 6, for which I am grateful, but all of the kids were expecting these grades to make or break their future and were all desperate for high grades. I had to calm a couple of friends kids down with it too, one in particular felt everyone would write him off if he did badly and that it would change his future forever.

    • BexleyS

      That’s really sad. I feel bad that your son has felt this way. If I was his teacher and understood his anxiety I would also have not put him in for the level 6 paper. I would however have explained the situation to him because level 5 is still fantastic. They only need to be level 4 by the time they leave school so level 5 is above average. I can’t state enough how little the results mean to anyone apart from the school. Same with year 9 sats. I don’t even remember what I got : )

  • 2Well

    This kind of thing always made me feel bad because I did do well in testing, standardized or otherwise, because school always came easily to me. I sometimes felt like I was less because I was good in school, other kids didn’t like that, and their not being great in school made them better people anyway. It didn’t help that my mother would have rather had a B-average kid who was normal than an A average kid with issues.

  • footnotegirl

    I will raise my hand at being the kid who liked standardized tests. I was something of a special case though, as my mother was a teacher and used to test out the tests she gave her kids on me first at home, even before I started school. So I related filling in little circles with a) spending time with my mom, b) getting cookies, and c) scoring highly. So when I started taking them in school (granted, before all of this was required and it became a huge thing where jobs and budgets were on the line) it was never stress-causing for me. Plus, I was a shy kid and at least on the standardized and iq test days, I knew I wouldn’t be called on to answer anything.

  • Rachel

    I actually did enjoy standardized tests, as well. I was always a good test taker (I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was smarter than the other kids, I was just able to intuit what the person who wrote the test questions was trying to do). And, my parents always gave me extra candy in my lunchbox to make the day less stressful. I really just saw it as a time where I didn’t have to be in classes, got to fill in bubbles with my new, sharp pencils (yeah, I’m OCD), and eat candy during lunch.
    The flip side is that OCD makes writing papers unbearable. The reading, re-reading, and painstaking editing of every sentence that you write takes forever.

  • Katherine Handcock

    Oh, this letter makes me so incredibly happy! I know so many people who struggled desperately to succeed academically and ignored their amazing talents in other areas. At least a few of them, fortunately, ended up finding their niche — including one who’s become an enormously successful contractor.

  • Justme

    Give me a standardized test over a project or paper any day of the week. There’s something so orderly and methodical about multiple choice tests that make my OCD heart happy. Plus, the grading is much more objective than a project or paper, which I liked.

    But in regards to this letter from the school? It’s pretty awesome.

  • SarahJesness

    I didn’t mind the standardized tests themselves, really, I thought they were easy. What I hated was the way my schools ran ‘em.

  • NorthernGirl

    My kids love standardized tests. Seriously. My daughter gets excited when they happen (especially math). She loves tests and knows that when they’re happening it’s a break from having the possibility of having to speak in class, which she hates. So she definitely found a good side to them. My son just likes all tests. My kids are a bit geeky, but so am I (and their dad).

    Plus, even though the school stresses how important the tests are (and sends letters home about how important they are and how to talk to your kids so they know how important they are), blah, blah, blah, we tell them that the test results don’t matter to us, just do the best they can. No sense in making the kids all freaked out about it.

  • PAJane

    I have never, since I was a toddler, liked eating first thing in the morning. It makes my belly feel weird, and not in a good way. But those letters would come home: “Your kid had standardized testing schedule for these dates. Be sure they are to school on time, and make sure they eat a complete breakfast.” So my mom would dutifully wake me up extra early on those days and force me to eat something, just because the letter told her to. Took some of the fun out of the weird break-from-schedule days.

  • SickOfExcuses

    If you are too stupid to perform appropriately on what are really dumbed-down-to-the-lowest-denomitator tests, then you should be removed from society. Seriously. It’s a shame that low IQ isn’t a physically painful condition; it really should be. Conform, excel, or get the f**k out. You’re taking up space and wasting everybody’s time.

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