Teacher sends inspiring letter home with students to ease ISTEP fears

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WHITELAND, Ind. (February 29, 2016) – ISTEP testing is underway for students across the state, and the test causes a lot of anxiety for many students. That's why one teacher is trying to ease her students’ fears with an inspiring letter.

Abby Fallis shared a letter that her son’s teacher gave him last Friday ahead of the big exams. The letter reassures students that no matter how they perform on the test, that doesn’t define who they are as a person.

“The scores you will get from these tests will tell you something, but the will not tell you everything. These tests do not define you. There are many ways of being smart. YOU are smart! YOU are enough! You are the light that brightens my day and the reason I am happy to come to work each day. So, in the midst of all these tests, remember that there is no way to "test" all of the amazing and awesome things that make you, YOU."

Fallis shared the letter last Friday on her Facebook page, and it already has over 2,500 views.

"I felt like all kids who are taking the ISTEP needed to read it, all parents with kids taking the ISTEP needed to read it," Fallis said.

Her son, Rylan, is taking ISTEP for the first time. The letter from his teacher made him emotional, Fallis said.

"He said, 'I cried because I was happy,'" Fallis said.

The teacher who wrote the note wanted to remain anonymous, telling Fallis it was her school team that worked on the message together.

Katie Kirchner, a Harshman Middle School ESL teacher, told CBS4 that she is not surprised, since reassuring students and keeping a positive environment around ISTEP has become a part of classroom life.

"It’s always an uplifting and positive environment in my room, no matter what the score is," Kirchner said.

That's especially important to her because many of her ESL students are still learning English and have the extra stress of taking the same test.

"They know the drill, they know the procedures, and the majority of them know that they’re not going to pass," Kirchner said.

Lawmakers have been considering tossing out the ISTEP test and moving on to a new one, citing ongoing problems with testing. This year, the state moved to hold schools harmless for last year's grades, after they went down significantly due to a test overhaul.

As for Fallis, she was thrilled to have help preparing her son and said she knew the letter would help him as he takes the test for the first time.

"The last couple weeks we’ve talked a lot about ISTEP and I’ve been looking for the words to say to him to ease any kind of anxiety and she found them," Fallis said.

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