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…you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

(James 1:3)

Testing Coordinator  
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Clara Jenkins, a middle school counselor in the Atlanta public school system, knows all about high
stakes testing in education. She has served many years as the testing coordinator at Martin Luther King
(MLK) Middle School in Atlanta. The staff at MLK Middle School serves the most economically, intellectually,
and spiritually impoverished student population in the district.
Clara knows all the state standards and testing requirements which seem to change daily and grow
ever more complex and convoluted. She is ever vigilante regarding the latest email from the state education
agency and the district testing administrators. The state testing procedures are never the same from year to year. Clara feels like she
is in Las Vegas playing a shell game, constantly watching someone roll a pea from one uplifted shell to another. In her heart of hearts
she feels that people are gambling with children’s lives with this testing and it grieves her spirit. Clara has learned to play the shell
game well. Her goal is to make the testing as small a burden upon the teachers and administrators as possible, going above and
beyond the minimum expectations for her role. Over the last fifteen years, under her watch, MLK Middle School has never been cited
or warned for any testing issues or violations.
Beyond all this state mandated testing, Clara knows there is a set of standards which don’t change every year that are much
more important for her and the students, parents, and staff to follow than the state standards and regulations – that is the teaching of
Jesus Christ, the one to whom she is truly ultimately accountable for much more important things than academic test procedures.
Jesus has given her many tests in her life, especially in her youth, which she failed. Thankfully she was forgiven and personally tutored
by Jesus through godly mentors who encouraged her with the truth. Now she passes almost all the tests God gives her.
Clara knows that her first love, Jesus, is the true testing coordinator of our lives. One of her favorite scriptures which she has
posted on her office door (WITHOUT the chapter name and verse noted) is a James 1:3 paraphrase, “Testing Produces
Perseverance.” In individual, small group, and whole grade counseling sessions she teaches the youth that the trials and challenges
going on in their homes and personal lives, as well as at school, are all tests. If they make the right choices during these tests they will
develop courage, strength, and perseverance which will lead them to their hope and future. She teaches that making the right choices
during these tests can bring greater life and a wealth of positive relationships and ultimately even economic wealth. She tells the
students their real tests are not the annual state academic ones but the ones that come when they are offered their first illegal drug by
a family member or best friend, when they are invited into a gang, or when they are invited to have sex with someone. She teaches that
wrong choices are forgiven but may have consequences that last a lifetime.
Clara was instrumental in helping establish the first Christian student club at MLK ten years ago which now has over fifty
students who meet before school on Wednesdays in the band room. Several youth pastors from community churches are there to
guide and mentor the student leaders. There is a group of seven or eight of these students that meet and pray together in the various
halls throughout the building prior to school starting each day. These bold students also pass out urban youth teen Bibles (Biblica’s My
City, My God Bibles).
Clara has been the facilitator of a staff Encouragement (share, care, and prayer) group at MLK for just over twelve years. Five
to seven teachers meet on Mondays after school for thirty to sixty minutes, the majority of that time being spent in prayer. The day
before state testing begins, this group of teachers meet to pray. They commit the students, the test, and one another unto God. Clara
anoints their hands with anointing oil and then they fan out across the school. Clara anoints the doorposts of every room and the other
teachers place their hands on the desks of all the students who will be taking a test the next day. They all quietly pray as they do this.
If they meet other teachers in their rooms, they asked these teachers if they want prayer. In the last five years, no teacher has ever
turned one of them down. The Encouragement group teachers then gather back in the library to pray until the Holy Spirit releases
them.
Year after year a real sense of calm and peace fills MLK Middle School during state testing. Although MLK often falls just short
of district and state standards, it is always one of the highest achieving schools when compared to schools with similar student
demographics. It is also the least violent of all the inner city Atlanta schools. It is way ahead of most schools, however, in staff
obedience to the standards established by Jesus Christ, thanks to one educator who boldly walks out her faith in God in her
professional life. Clara is not just her school’s testing coordinator. More importantly, she is God’s testing coordinator as well.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for increasing our perseverance through testing. Please forgive us and tutor us when we fail the tests you give
us in our professional lives.
Reflection: How do I spiritually prepare for student testing in my profession? In what area of my professional life is God testing me?
Getting Real: Prior to testing, commit yourself, the students, and the test results to the Lord and release it all to Him. You have done
your best. Let God do the rest.
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CLASSROOM LIGHTHOUSE SERIES: Fields of Faith in Education (For info or prayer contact ceaihouston@sbcglobal.net.) WEEK 30