Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SBAC Testing a mom's last nerve

I wrote this about a year ago. My feelings on testing have changed very little in the time since. I still don't blame the teachers or the administration for the testing or for stressing its importance. I'm not naive enough to think that school scores and funding happen without taking SBAC test scores into consideration. The only thing that has changed in the year since I wrote this is me; my willingness to put my kids through the stress again, my failure to do something about it. So? I'm not going to deal with it this year. At all.

I'll be opting my kids out of testing this time around. I have no idea what they will be doing while their classmates are in testing sessions. Reading? Drawing? Sitting in the office? No clue at all. But, I do know they won't be having nervous tummies or worries about college.

I don't for one second even pretend to know what is best for your child, what pressure they can take, what is too much for them, but if your kids are like mine, and the testing is too much, I want you to know that it's not hard to opt out. I was a little intimidated by the idea of it at first, but after asking around, I discovered all I had to do was send a note. Our district asked for our principal's name, student name and grade, testing year, parent or guardian's name, and a signature. That's it. That's all it cost me....

April 14, 2015

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions reading this, I will say first and unequivocally: I love my children's teachers. I love their schools. I really do. And in the words of mothers everywhere, I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

As far as I'm concerned, we hit the educational lottery. The teachers in our schools are wonderful. The administration is supportive. They have always seemed to really understand the children (and the parents) they are serving. But then, Common Core and the subsequent standardized testing happened.

It's not their fault Common Core happened. It's not their fault that it wasn't introduced incrementally, or you know, in any sane kind of way. It's not their fault that they haven't received funding to buy all the new materials and books they need to implement it successfully. And it's definitely not their fault that after only one year of Common Core curriculum, our kids are being subjected to week-long standardized tests that they don't understand, and are almost guaranteed to bomb.

None of that is their fault. I understand that.

This is the second week of testing in our house since each grade tests during a different week. We went through it with Child Number One, and this is the first day for Child Number Two. I have approached this round of tests with an extremely laid back attitude. It's not because I don't care about their success. It's because THESE TESTS DO NOT MATTER. Our state has decided not to hold our schools accountable for test scores this year, so I have decided not to hold my children accountable for test scores this year.

Now, mind you, we are still doing the early bed time thing and healthy breakfast thing...blah, blah, blah...but I am not stressing the importance of the exam. Because, again, IT IS NOT IMPORTANT.

Which leads me to the focus of my disappointment: Knowing that this test means nothing, why are we still stressing the importance of THE TEST. Both of my kids were under the belief that colleges will look at their results. Are they actually supposed to think that their futures depend on doing a great job on dragging and dropping sentences, and clicking 'submit,' or 'next,' or whatever? That essentially they will be judged for their performance on this exam for as many as the next eight years??

No pressure kids!

At first, when this story came home to me in the form of a 13 year old boy, I thought maybe the educator who delivered the message was trying to prep them for high school. Maybe precedents were being set for things like the SATs, ACTs, or that California High School Exit Exam thing. So, I just reassured my kid that no college will care at all how he did on this particular test, then I let it go. Until my daughter woke up for school on Monday.

She was flustered and anxious. "Mom! I have to eat a good breakfast. I need to be my best! Testing starts today!" I told her the same things I told her brother, that she should always try to do her best, but this test really isn't the kind of thing we need to get upset about. My reassurances seemed to fall on deaf ears. I couldn't figure out why, until her friend came to walk to school with us. The nervous energy was palpable. There were even upset tummies. That's when I was told "colleges will look at this test!"

You've got to be freaking kidding me.

I couldn't really say what I wanted because I was talking to kids. I couldn't tell those two 10-year-olds that colleges will give exactly zero f***s about how they did on a test in 4th grade, but I did my best to convince them that they have plenty of years to worry about college. 4th grade is definitely not one of those years.

I don't think teachers have given the kids this impression on purpose. I don't even believe they actually said the words "colleges look at this test." I have no question that there was some adult to kid language that was lost in translation. I'm sure something like "when you're in high school, this is one of the tests that colleges will look at." was said to the kids, but they heard "if you don't do a great job on this test, you won't get into college." I am absolutely certain it was a misunderstanding. But it was two misunderstandings, at two different schools, with two different educators. That makes me think that aside from a misunderstanding, it might also just be a dumb thing to say to kids.

I am not against motivating children, and I believe they do need to know that there are natural consequences for not doing your best. However, I would contend that kids are stressed out enough already without our piling on. That is one arena where they really don't need our help at all. They have pressure to make fantastic grades, maintain their extra-curriculars, and play on sports teams that are ridiculously competitive. They have parental pressures and social stressors that, as children, we would never have been able to imagine.

My kids are perfectionists. They take things very seriously. They put so much pressure on themselves that sometimes it scares me for them. I love my kids' teachers. I know that nobody did anything intentionally to freak them out. No one needs to feel badly or apologize. I don't even think it needs to be mentioned again. In fact, that's more my point.

I would love it if we (all of the people who impact a child's life, parents and teachers alike) would calm down a little. Tone down the rhetoric. Let them play in the dirt without worrying what a college might think about it. That's as much a reminder for myself as it is for anyone else. I want the best, the most, and the greatest for my kids always. I want them to have everything. Everything except a prescription for Zoloft.

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