xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: I barf on your standardized test!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I barf on your standardized test!

So, standardized testing starts this week. For anybody with a kid in public school grade two or higher you know what I'm talking about. This is how school districts and states and everybody with an opinion, informed or otherwise, determine "how well" a school is doing. No Child Left Behind puts particular emphasis on the importance of test scores and if you don't do well you end up in what they call "Program Improvement." Our school is in year 5 of PI and I think our district is, too. This is supposed to mean a lot of No Good Really Bad Things for both the school and the district, and I've been hearing of dire warnings for years now about how the entire world will come to a screeching halt once we're in PI Year 5. I'm still waiting for that to happen.

Anyway, I've never known what to do with Child 1 and The Test. He can't take it without what they call "accommodations," which apparently means his score doesn't even count? I honestly have no idea and no matter how much I try I can't seem to find anybody who will explain this to me in a way I can understand it.

First of all, in my personal opinion, I think that relying on standardized test scores to judge how a school is doing is pretty stupid, particularly since (theoretically) the consequences of failing are supposed to be so dire. Not all kids are good at tests, I never was, but that doesn't mean I'm not smart. And it seems like everybody (adults) puts so much pressure on these kids to Do Well On The Test, how could you not crack under that kind of pressure? Not to mention the pressure that teachers get for their students to get good scores. Every teacher I know will tell you that the test isn't a measure of how well their students are doing, it's a measure of how well they are doing, as teachers. And then their teaching ability is judged by their students' scores, sometimes with some pretty fucked up consequences (read that article, I'm going to refer to it later and you're going to feel stupid for not knowing what I'm talking about). I don't understand how The Test is an accurate measure of anything, really.

And then there's that whole "Teach to the test" thing that pisses people off so much, and rightly so IMO. Because of all the pressure for teachers to "do well," all they end up caring about during the school year is making sure the kids know which bubbles to fill in when the time comes, and that becomes their entire focus. When this happens, kids don't get a whole education, they only get the bits and pieces that they'll need once they get that scantron form. This may be an unfortunate truth, but it's obviously stupid.

And then there are all the subgroups and demographics and statistical blah blah blah that I simply do not understand, and frankly I don't even want to understand it. Please don't talk to me about how this particular group of African American kids in this grade and this class need to get this particular percentage because I don't know what you mean.

Okay, so... do I let my kid take the test or not? This is the question that I'm now facing for a second year. Every year I wonder what I should do, every year I ask people for their opinion and every year I still have no idea what I should do. So I end up saying "okay, fuck it, let him take it." Because I doubt he even knows he's taking a test, much less this Very Very Very Important Test. They pull him out of class and into the Learning Closet (formerly known as The Learning Center, but when the district decided to add a fifth 3rd grade class this year, naturally the SPED kids were the first to get the shaft, so they were moved from a nice big classroom and into a closet in order to make room. YAY!) and he hangs out with the Resource Teacher, who he likes and hangs out with all the time, anyway. She tests him, I guess, and he does his thing, I guess, and in the end we get a score in the mail over the summer. This is what we did last year and his scores came back as "Shittiest Scores Ever." That's actually what it said! (No it didn't.)

So, if his score doesn't count (I think) and they all suck, anyway, what the fuck is the point of him taking it? Because whenever the issue comes up, our Principal always STRESSES HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR HIM TO TAKE THE TEST REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME. Usually the argument is "he's going to be taking tests his whole life, he might as well get used to it," which I have never once bought. Because pulling him out of class to hang out in the Learning Closet, which is something he does every day of the week, doesn't seem to be adequate preparation for a life time of test taking and I don't see how anybody could make the argument that it IS. So I've always thought there was some other motivation going on there, because they really want him to take it... but why?

It was explained to me once that the Resource Specialist and the Principal had some kind of test participation quota they needed to meet and by having Child 1 take the test they were something something percentages good for them? (Okay, it's possible I didn't really understand the explanation; I mean, come on. I'm smart, but I'm not THAT smart!) So, having my kid in the Learning Closet and going through the test motions is a benefit to the school? Even though his score sucks? And it doesn't even count? Well, okay, honestly, I'm cool with that. I have nothing but respect for anybody who would even dare stand up in front of a room full of kids and try to teach them shit, so I usually just do whatever they tell me. If I thought for a second that my kid's self esteem was at all impacted by any of this, I assure you I would have a much stronger opinion about it, but he doesn't seem to give a shit, so neither do I. Fuck it! Let him take it!

But then there's the whole "taking a political stance" by having my kid opt out, which all parents are allowed to do, by the way; nobody is actually required to take the test, despite what school officials will tell you. (Apparently teachers all know this but they're not allowed to tell parents.) And, shit, I'm ALL for taking a political stance if it's something I believe in, but as I've said, I've never been able to get a satisfying explanation from anybody about why I should or shouldn't have my kid take the test, so I've toyed with the idea but never actually done it. But... would my opting him out have been able to help save Rigoberto Ruelas' life, or others that may come after him? That's a good enough reason for me, I'll do anything to help teachers... but is that what I should do? Is it the right thing to do? And if it is... how? And WHY?

Anyway, it's only our 2nd year with this, but I go through this every time we have an IEP and every time the subject is mentioned. And I never know what to do. And I never feel good about what I decide because I've never been able to form a solid opinion on the subject and I don't like being uninformed.

My point? Yes, I do have one: Standardized testing starts this week! And there I was, wondering once again if I was doing the right thing, when Child 1 wakes up and apparently makes the decision for me, in the form of fucking barfing everywhere.... repeatedly. Guess he's not taking the test, after all! Um. Thanks?