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  • Writer's picturePaula Reed

Measuring Achievement By Successful Careers

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Teaching isn’t all stories of hardship, and the beauty of Facebook is kids often stay in touch. I have stories that fed my soul for years in the classroom.

I have a former debater who worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and another who has been an advisor to Barack Obama and Kamala Harris. Former students have become doctors, teachers, lawyers, and even a PTA president. Most of them had the kind of test scores we associate with achievement.

There were also others.

I had a student whose grades were never spectacular, and his test scores were worse, primarily because sitting in a seat and pushing a pen or pencil was not his thing. But he came out of the woodshop regularly with some breathtaking creation—a stunning bowl, an inlaid box. He went on to become a master carpenter, creating and installing kitchen cabinets people in Cherry Creek pay a fortune for.

There was a young man who became a Navy Corpsman. He was a black belt in the Marine Corps, was selected MARSOC Operator of the Year and Medic of the Year, as well as earning a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, two Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medals, two Combat Action Ribbons, and two Good Conduct Medals. His family gave me the honor of speaking at his funeral after he was killed in Afghanistan, and his heroism will always be remembered at the Marine clinic named in his honor. His test scores reflected his feelings about timed tests covering things he didn’t value; they didn’t reflect his persistence when duty called or his courage and love of country.

Oh, the pictures on Facebook! Pictures of students with happy, healthy children of their own, accompanied by posts of all the things they are doing to be good parents—reading to their kids, keeping their cool in the face of toddler tantrums—all while holding down jobs as pipefitters, sheet metal workers, big-rig mechanics, and a host of other valuable careers. None of them shined on the CSAP, TCAP, CMAS or any other standardized test. Tell me those kids aren’t achieving (but be prepared for a piece of my mind if you do).

College is a terrific way to get to a great career, but it’s not the only path to success. Let’s value all kinds of achievement, not just college-track school careers and the ability to sit at a computer and click away within the time allotted.

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