In one letter, a teacher sums up what test scores can't.

For many students, teachers, and parents across the country, it's that dreaded time of year: standardized testing time.

:: collective groan ::

While not everyone feels the same about standardized tests, many kids feel a lot of pressure to perform, many parents feel frustrated that they've become such a focus in our education system, and many teachers feel stressed when their teaching skills are evaluated based on their students' test performance.


But while the system might be flawed, there is still something to celebrate this time of year: the loving, dedicated teachers who know just how to put things in perspective.

Photo via iStock.

The teachers at Blue Lake Elementary School in Volusia Country, Florida, wanted their students to know they're more than test scores.

The third-grade teachers at the school felt so strongly about it, in fact, that they got together and composed a letter that they sent home to each and every one of their third-grade students.

Aleshia Crimmons, whose son Christopher is in Rhonda Sylvia's third-grade class at Blue Lake, was brought to tears when she read it. She was so moved that she posted it to her Facebook page and sent a copy to her local news station.

Photo belongs to Aleshia Crimmons, shared here with permission.

The letter reads (emphasis added):

"My dearest students,

This week you will take your Florida State Assessment (FSA) for Reading and Math. I know how hard you have worked, but there is something important that you must know: The FSA does not assess all of what makes each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you the way I do, and certainly not the way your families do.

They do not know that some of you speak two languages, or that you love to sing or paint a picture. They have not seen your natural and beautiful talent for dancing. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them, that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day, or that your face turns red when you feel shy. They have not heard you tell differences between a King Cobra and a Rattler. They do not know that you participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school. They do not know that despite dealing with bad circumstances, you still come to school with a smile. They do not know that you can tell a great story or that you really love spending time (baking, hunting, mudding, fishing, shopping...) with special family members and friends. They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try every day to be your very best.

The scores you will get from this test will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. There are many ways of being smart. You are smart! You are enough! You are the light that brightens my day! So while you are preparing for this test and while you are in the midst of it all, remember that there is no way to 'test' all the amazing and awesome things that make you YOU!"





Crimmons wasn't surprised by the letter — she told Upworthy that the teachers at Blue Lake are the best — but she was still moved and impressed.

"We have some amazing kids who need to know and hear everything that was written," she told Upworthy. "Kids need to know that they're different, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them. We need to teach them to be understanding of each other's differences. That is what makes all of us great."

That message is what so many teachers are imparting up on their students: They're great just the way they are, standardized test scores aside.

Katie Sluiter, an eighth-grade English teacher at a Title 1 school near Grand Rapids, Michigan, stated it quite bluntly: "I hate standardized tests," she told Upworthy. She says it's especially stressful this year because her students are required to take the tests on the computer.

Photo via iStock.

"I don't see my students as test scores at all," she said. While she understands why the state feels standardized tests are necessary and the politicians believe they keep everyone accountable, "they are just hoops. Hoops we jump through each spring rather than do what we should be doing: reading and talking about reading."

Sluiter is confident her students will do the best they can, but she also knows those scores don't reflect the whole story.

"I know some are great test takers and some are lousy test takers. It is what it is," she said. She wants her students to do the best they can on the test, but not to stress over it. Because when the tests are over, what she really wants is for them to "pick up a book and continue with the business of learning."

Her parting words are so important and likely similar to what many teachers feel: "Kids get very stressed because they don't want to let the district down. They feel that if their scores aren't 'good enough,' their teachers will be the ones to suffer (they are right), and that is a lot for those little shoulders," she said.

"I want my students to know I love them no matter what happens that week of testing. It's OK. Really."

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Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

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Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

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Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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