Image source: HowIsMyKidDoing.com
Margie Viera, a single mom of two boys in Orlando, is proud of her Hispanic heritage.
“We work really hard at maintaining our culture. That means that everybody who walks in has to eat something,” said Viera, while stirring a pot of arroz con gandules, a traditional Puerto Rican dish, over the stove in her Orlando, Fla., home.
With family back in Puerto Rico, Margie is grateful for the educational opportunities Florida offers her school-aged sons, Jorge and Gabriel.
“I was born and raised in Puerto Rico,” said Viera. “Everything is different back home: the education system, government system, political system—everything.”
When Jorge and Gabriel began school, Viera said her main priority was for her children to excel in the classroom and compete with their peers, both locally and abroad. So, she was shocked when other parents at her sons’ school complained about testing.
“As a Latina single mom, I want to make sure my children are proficient and they’re getting the language skills they need,” said Viera. “So, testing is definitely important to me.”
Viera, a higher education professional, said she has seen first-hand how tests help Hispanic students identify the areas they need to improve as they work to master English.
In her experience, tests are tools to focus attention on struggling students—from kids lacking language proficiency to students experiencing cultural shock. Viera believes the benefits of testing in college apply to K-12 education all the same.
“The way I see it, if my children are testing early on, then I know what areas they need to improve. I know how they’re doing, and I know if they’re academically achieving,” said Viera.
In her view, tracking her sons’ progress helps her ensure they don’t slip through the cracks.
On the statewide level, testing in public schools has been an important tool in helping Florida Hispanic students close the achievement gap. This is why Viera sees the opt-out movement as a concern for Hispanic parents everywhere.
“We can’t solely rely on a teacher or school to tell us that they think our kids are doing fine,” cautioned Viera. “They are human.”
“Just like if a doctor said I was healthy, but inside, I might not feel well. Then I would say I need a second opinion,” she explained. “The same thing you would do with your health, you need to do with academic achievement.”
Viera added that as minorities, her children will have to work harder than most to achieve their goals. Tests will be one objective and reliable way her kids can show they are able to compete.
“Our kids are no longer competing with their peers next door,” she warned. “Now they are competing with the whole world. My kids’ grades only tell me how they are competing in one classroom.”
Viera hopes more Hispanic parents will speak out about why testing is important to them. She is proud of the progress Florida’s Hispanic students have made since the state began monitoring all students’ progress on statewide assessments.
“We have come too far to backtrack from the very things that made our kids so successful,” said Viera.
Watch Margie Viera share her story in this video from HowIsMyKidDoing.com.
Her story begins at 2:50.
ExcelinEd celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month and the remarkable achievements of Hispanic students nationwide. To see more stories and information about how testing empowers parents, visit ExcelinEd.org/FLTesting.
About the author
Kate Wallace @kstreetfla
Kate serves as the Director of Community Engagement (North Florida) for the Foundation for Florida's Future (AFloridaPromise). Prior to joining AFloridaPromise, Kate served as Legislative Coordinator for The Fiorentino Group, a Florida government affairs firm based in Jacksonville. Previously, Kate served as government affairs assistant for the Washington office of Triadvocates, an Arizona government relations firm, and as staff assistant for the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., federal government relations office. As a college student, Kate interned for the White House in Vice President Dick Cheney’s Office of Domestic Policy and for former Florida Congressman Adam Putnam’s Capitol Hill office. A central Florida native, Kate graduated from University of Florida in 2007 with a B.S. in Public Relations. Contact Kate at Kate@aFloridaPromise.org.