What’s Our Purpose?

Something has been rattling on my mind for about a week.  I wasn’t sure if I should write a post about it, but then again, I haven’t posted in a while. (6th grade can really kill your free time).

If you were asked as a math teacher, “What’s your purpose?“, what would be your response?  I know that it’s a pretty profound question, but take a moment to think about your answer.  

While you are thinking of your own question…ponder some of these answers when I asked this question to my Twitter peeps.


Aren’t these answers incredible?  And I’m sure if I took to Twitter again, I would get a bunch more answers.  


Last week while at a district math committee meeting (for secondary teachers), the group was asked this very question.  My very own son’s teacher (who has a similar mindset as I) responded “student learning” and was told she was wrong.

The correct answer was….”TO RAISE THE CAASPP TEST SCORES.”


I’ve been teacher for about 20 years both in middle school, elementary school and as a coach.    And when I asked a few of my colleagues, they responded, “Kristen, that’s been going on for years.”  I’m not impervious to what’s been going on in education.  It’s been embedded in each of us for years.  However…is it the sole reason that I teach?  Is it the sole reason the any of us teach?  I strongly doubt that any of us got into teaching for the purpose of “raising test scores.”   Do I look at my students and see little labels above their heads “Standard Met”, “standard nearly met”?   Do tests understand that one of my students still sees visions of her father dying–so she has to deal with that?  Do tests understand how my student put so much pressure on himself that he starts crying?


Is this how we are looking at at students now?  

I’ve been disturbed with how many tests outside of my own curriculum assessments that my students are expected to take.  

First we have been given iReady this year.  For this program alone, we take the beginning diagnostic, the mid year diagnostic and probably and end of year diagnostic.  Each of those parts takes my 6th grades 2-3 hours at best.  It’s long, it’s tedious, and it takes A LOT of instructional time away from my students.  And it’s mostly used for predictability/foreshadowing of….wait for it….how are the kids going to do on the CAASPP.  Ugh. I even joined in on a Twitter discussion about using computerized screeners in the classroom.  Here are a few comments. 



Next my district decided to implement the CAASPP interim assessment.  It’s only purpose (at our district) is to have the kids practice logging into the testing site using their numbers.  Again…this happens at least 3 times in the school year.  2-3 hours a session.  More instructional time lost.  

Here are a few questions that I ponder for the future of education….

  • Have we lost our direction in education when it comes to assessment?
  • At what point are we  OVER ASSESSING our students?
  • Do these computerized screeners really help us get an accurate picture of our students?
  • Is this our future–putting students in front of computers to learn math via programs, videos, etc?
  • Is education just obsessed with test scores?
  • Is there another way to keep schools accountable without the CAASPP scores?
  • Does anyone understand what all of this does to a child (stress, pressure, anxiety)? 


My purpose in the classroom is to instill my love of math to my students (or teachers that I coach).   Usually when they get older, math becomes a hated subject.  It’s my job to show them how “playful” this subject can be.  Let’s have conversations! Let’s look for patterns! Let’s get to the bottom of this mysterious problem! Let’s grow as mathematicians!  

That’s my purpose.  And there’s no test that will show me the thrill, enjoyment, and excitement when we explore mathematics in my classroom. 

Until next time,



Leave a Comment