Every community, parent and teacher wants quality schools for our children. Finding an effective measure to determine the quality of our schools is where we get into trouble. Ask any parent what she/he wants for her/his children when they go to school. They want teachers who genuinely care for children. They want children prepared for the world after graduation. They want children to learn skills to succeed in life.
In all my years teaching, I've never heard a parent tell me their hope was that I would turn their child into an exceptional standardized test bubble-filler. That is what the standardized test scores used to rank our children and our schools' measure. They don't measure the things that are most important in our schools.
Fargo has fantastic teachers who are giving students a great education... in all boundary zones. Most are exceptionally qualified and have earned a master's degree in their field. Again and again I see them demonstrate love and compassion for children. I have worked in schools around the globe, and my colleagues at Fargo South are the most dedicated I've experienced.
Research shows that standardized test scores reveal much more about the background of students than the quality of teachers. We are blessed to have a diverse community, but children without access to quality reading materials at home, students in poverty, and students who are learning English struggle on these tests.
It is this combination of diversity and great teachers that makes our community so strong. Our students may not thrive at filling in bubbles, but they graduate prepared to navigate a complex world with many diverse perspectives.
Isn't this what we want for our children?
Last year, Fargo South was credited with just as many, if not more, staff and student honors as the other two high schools. These awards were for writing and music contests, debate, Skills USA, Academic All-State, Science Olympiad, YMCA Woman of the Year, teacher of the year, coaches of the year, and Miss Teen International, just to name a few.
My success as a teacher, including being named the 2018 North Dakota Teacher of the Year, is a direct result of getting an amazing education at Fargo South. I have no doubt that the future leaders we are cultivating here will look back at their alma mater with as much pride as I have.
Let's stop trying to rank and sort our students and our schools with faulty data. A mass produced, one-time test will never be able to show us how amazing our students and our teachers are.
Instead, let us focus on whether we are providing our children with the kind of education that will prepare them to be successful in their future. Fargo South is doing just that. If you don't believe me, visit our community and talk to our staff, our students and our parents. I have no doubt that you'll be inspired by the incredible things our teachers and students are doing.
Juelke teaches English language arts to English learner students at Fargo South High School. She is also the 2018 North Dakota Teacher of the Year.