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Parent says end-of-year tests do not reflect student aptitude

This past school year, my two children attended Martin Millenium Academy, Edgecombe County’s first global school. This was their third year attending this very special place that has not just transformed a neighborhood but also our community.

My son continued the third grade in the Spanish Immersion Program, and my daughter entered seventh grade with three extraordinary enthusiastic and talented teachers.

The school is led by Keith Parker, a former NC Social Studies Teacher of the Year and a graduate of the Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA). He is assisted by Vice Principal Sylvia McGeachy, also a NELA grad with many years of expertise in elementary curriculum and Global Coordinator Jennifer Craddock, a teacher of 19 years in Edgecombe County’s Public School System.

The entire team of educators along with our enhancement teachers, is strong in technique, committed to the students, and passionate about teaching. When you walk into the school, you feel the love. It is truly a special place where my children have not only thrived but also enjoyed going on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, a lot of that enjoyment and love and passion came to a grinding halt once End of Grade (EOG) Test Scores are released.

The scores were not perfect, and with that the teachers became deflated about this wonderful year that they had experienced. The administration feels the burn of the scores as much as the teachers, if not more.

Our state has taken the good part of learning and changed it into a brutal way to penalize our children, our teachers and our principals. I challenge everyone reading this letter to actually take an EOG. Go ahead, take a third grade EOG if you’d like. You will find the questions are tricky, confusing, and dare I say, unfair.

See example of sample question #1 on the Fifth Grade Math EOG

You see, the schools are not graded by the passion or the excitement or the happiness of the students. No, instead they are graded only by the EOG scores. And then when the North Carolina Report Card is released, people all over the state see that glaring grade smacked next to the school name, and they automatically assume that someone is to blame.

And while Martin Millenium Academy has met growth the past two years, it is still considered low performing by the state and has a letter grade of D despite increases in proficiency because EOG proficiency scores still do not meet state requirements. I argue that the state should more heavily weigh growth — and take into account other measures of success (extracurricular offerings, parent surveys, student surveys) because they are, in fact, extremely relevant.

People may say that the county is poor and therefore the children are uneducated and would never stand a chance on these tests. They may assume the teachers are no good because the great teachers go to Raleigh or Chapel Hill or Charlotte. They may think the administration is not dialed in to teaching the students because what great administrator goes to Tarboro. Regardless, someone gets a finger pointed at them.

Meanwhile, no one has any idea that behind those purple doors are students singing to great music when the bell rings at 8:30 a.m.; library books being opened and read throughout the day; children who have never left Tarboro, much less America, learning about New Zealand and Europe and Asia; Mandarin Chinese being taught at every grade level; a principal who not only supports his teachers but also inspires them; and most importantly, happy children learning.

I know there are parents at every school in our county and other counties who feel the same way. Tests are one of a million ways to show the aptitude of our students.

I don’t need my child to make a 100 on a Spanish test when I watch him go into a restaurant and converse fluently with the owner whose eyes are wide with awe and disbelief.

I don’t need my child to get a 5 (the highest score) on her math EOG when she says to the clerk at the movie theater that he gave her too much change.

I don’t need my child to be anything but happy and healthy and in a great environment where they are inspired to learn.

And guess what? That is where they are.

Editor’s note: The sample test question was updated to reflect the most updated math test. 

Inez Ribustello

Inez Ribustello is a proud graduate of Tarboro High School. She and her husband Stephen own a restaurant, wine bar, and retail store called On the Square in downtown Tarboro. Most recently, she has helped open Tarboro Brewing Company, a microbrewery two blocks away from the restaurant. When she’s not selling beer, she’s trying very hard to be a good mother to her two wonderful children, Cynthia & Stephen, both students at Martin Millenium Academy.