I adore getting emails from former students. Students are the joy of my life. I am always especially proud when they become teachers. This letter from a graduate broke my heart–both for her and for her students.
Here is her letter. Please read it and share. She asked to remain anonymous so she would not get into trouble in her school.
Good morning Dr. Burris,
My name is ## and I graduated from South Side many years ago (2003). I am now finishing my seventh year teaching middle school social studies at a public school in New York City. I came across your piece in the Washington Post this morning and I felt compelled to send a quick note to say how appreciative I am of your efforts to fight the challenges that our students face in the age of high-stakes testing.
This school year was the first year that I truly felt the effects of “the tests.” The majority of students in my Gifted & Talented classes told me that they had never learned social studies until my class. I used to be able to quickly review topics and get right to document analysis, debates, and discussions. Now, I find myself teaching a basic introduction to U.S. history for half of the period so that my students can even access the primary source materials I provide. For example, several of my “level 4” students had never heard of the Boston Tea Party or understood why we celebrate Independence Day until this year. They confessed to me that ELA and Math were the only two subjects that they learned in elementary school and that their teachers taught a random “social studies unit” once a year. While my students definitely know how to cite evidence from a document or article, I find that they have little context or background to explain what that text means in the larger scope of history or even contemporary issues.
I am sure this is one of many stories that you’ve heard from teachers across the country, but it is truly a testament to the effects of high-stakes testing that really “hit home” for me this year. Again, thank you for being a voice for the frustrated and narrowly-educated children of our communities.