I really have dreaded this night all weekend. I normally have a bit of dread as Sunday night draws to a close for a lot of reasons. I have enjoyed being home with the family all weekend, I always want just one more day off, I stay up on Sunday nights to work, etc.
Today was different. I knew, because my kids are a bit like me, that they would have a hard time getting settled in to bed. See, tomorrow starts a week of ISTEP testing. ISTEP stands for Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress.
I am torn about the testing. On the one hand I do think assessing students to verify that they are growing and succeeding academically is important. On the other, there is SO much undue pressure heaped on educators and passed onto to students that it results in a night like I had tonight.
My kids are very different academically. My oldest struggles and always has. In 3rd and 4th grade he really didn’t fare well on the ISTEP. He struggled and worked so hard and as a result of his hard work, our preparation and the encouragement of his teachers he passed with flying colors in 5th and 6th grade. Am I all about the numbers? No way. I know what my son knows. If and when he was falling behind I felt it was MY job (not his teachers) to remediate him and reteach what he needed to work on at home. I made the time. It was important. All I needed to know was that he did his best. Everything else is just gravy. That is how we approach school with him. We know he tries, hard. WE do not heap the pressure on him. The system does. Schools need good scores to secure funding, teachers need good scores to secure good standing (performance pay, etc)and kids feel the burn. I am not saying all teachers are about the scores but a lot are. When they are put in a corner (scores=success to the state…how wrong is that?) then teaching to the test happens. Students like my son are a casualty of this. Tonight and his anxiety attack he had is the result.
On the other hand there is my academically gifted younger son. He wants to not only pass the test but come as close to a perfect score as possible. He has a very high opinion of his knowledge. We do not boost him up mind you, he is just this way. He oozes confidence. Having said this, he has been sleep waking , having night terrors, acting out in ways that show he is stressed out and he has also been randomly nauseous. When we sat him down and asked him to tell us what was wrong with him he said one thing: ISTEP. This brilliant, confident and happy child has been reduced to a nervous wreck over a test. He knows all we expect is for him to take his time, read the directions and do his best. Let the chips fall where they may. This is just not good enough for him. I know his teacher, well. I KNOW she is not heaping the pressure on him. It’s just in the air. He feels the electrical current of the importance of this assessment and it is going straight to his head.
I don’t know what to make of this. You know, not everyone performs well on a test. Why must 1 series of tests determine SO much about a student? It’s not like they aren’t tested routinely. It seems like every other week they are being tested for this or that. Benchmarks, progress assessments…call it what you will. I don’t see how this is improving their quality of education.
The flip side of this is that there are a vast number of parents who frankly have NO clue how their child is doing and expect their teachers to take care of it all. Not reading emails, responding to teacher notes, following up on low grades, checking homework are but a few of the issues plaguing educators in their relationship with parents. Parents feel that they are too busy and this is not their “job”. Well if it’s not their job then who’s job is it?
I am in charge of my child’s education. It is MY job to make sure they are succeeding. I have that responsibility. It is what you sign up for when having children.
So as we reassured our boys that this week would be fine, that all we wanted was for them to do their best I can’t help being angry that I have to do this in the first place. That they have to go to bed with heads full of doubt and anxiety. They are kids for goodness sake.
OK. Off my soapbox now ????
Tell me, what do YOU think of standardized testing in schools. Please comment below!