It’s time. Past time, really, but I was procrastinating. It’s time to test.
Here in our state, we are required to provide “proof of progress” every year for grade 1 and up. Kindergarten gets a pass if the kids aren’t over 6. This is our first year actually doing a standardized test and I’m not too happy about it.
Sure, the state offers a nice out – we can do a letter from a qualified evaluator to prove progress, but that’s Plan B. That’s the “oh crap!” response to the Engineer flunking the test – because I need him to practice taking standardized tests. Any tests. Test taking is a skill – it’s not about what you know, but if you know what the test makers want. And like any skill, it takes practice to build up. Especially if you have issues like an inability to sit still or listen to the directions the first time.
So before he takes the SAT, we need to work towards filling in the bubbles correctly and paying attention to the directions.
He couldn’t fill in bubbles to save his life, so I decided to go with the online CAT test from Academic Excellence. It’s online: less battling. We picked the untimed version. The website states,
“For students needing special accommodations, Academic Excellence offers the complete online achievement testing in an untimed format.”
Untimed California Achievement Test, Academic Excellence
My student needs “special accommodations” for sure. As his teacher, parent, and administrator I made the executive decision to focus on what really matters: not stressing my student out.
It’s still brutal. It’s still a battle. And it prompted a mom lecture on how failing is ok as long as you TRY at a very minimum! “It’s too hard! I can’t do it!” and he whines and buries his face in the chair.
What is it?
If you’re unfamiliar with the format, it’s a standardized test with multiple sections. He’s doing the grade 2 level so it’s fairly basic. A few different math sections, reading sections, and language arts sections. I should clarify: first grade students do the Grade 2 at the end of the school year. Second grade students do Grade 3 at the end of the year. So even though he’s in first grade, he has to do this Grade 2 test.
I’m glad we went this route because the directions include a voice over to explain things. It sounds the words out that he’s supposed to listen to, and it explains how to do the practice problems. The problem is that it’s a lot. Even each section is a lot.
One of the math sections – just one! – had 40 problems. My kid balks at more than 4-5 at a time. Now I’m asking him to do 40 – and threatening him with public school if he doesn’t obey. He’s struggling. I’m struggling.
Thankfully it has a save option so we ditched that math section around question 24 or so and we’ll come back to it later.
Why do I hate it?
It’s been a while since I did standardized tests myself, so my opinion was hardened into a 20-year fossilized viewpoint. Things changed, things stayed the same. It’s still annoying, obnoxious, and irritatingly boring.
Worse, it focuses on things I don’t consider important at this age. The Capitalization section was 24 questions long – about 19 too long, in my opinion. It’s second grade. Too early to focus so much on things like grammar and punctuation. And 20 spelling questions? Seriously? Let’s concentrate on getting them to fluent reading before we dump them into the deep end of spelling intricacies.
Way to kill their love of learning, guys, way to go.
I’m irritated that the test measures nothing of true learning. It can’t measure things like learning life skills, how to build a solid structure, or how to identify a hawk mid-flight. It can’t measure skills like an intuitive use of technology – the one all three of my kids are displaying in the picture with the interactive display at the Air & Space Museum. Grown adults got frustrated and walked away from this thing, but my kids were fascinated with how the display rotated and focused on certain exhibits.
The test measures maybe 20% of what I consider important learning skills at this age. And of that 20%, we haven’t spent a ton of time diagramming punctuation, doing busy work math problems, and evaluating reading comprehension.
Worse, it’s stress-inducing. The Engineer worriedly asked today on a quiz (on his tablet) if he would be able to see the incorrect answers so that he would “fix” them. At this point, we don’t worry about grades. We worry about mastery. He’s a perfectionist with a streak of anxiety as wide as the Mississippi River, so quizzes and tests make that so much worse.
I don’t care about his grade. I don’t care if he gets all A’s on this standardized test, or if he flubs an entire section (Reading Comprehension, I’m looking at you!) All I care about is that he gets a high enough score to get the state off our backs so that we can carry on with actual learning. Because they sure don’t care about that at all. They just want to check the boxes and dot the i’s and carry on doing the bureaucratic busy work that ossifies our school system.
We’ll carry on learning algebra. Geometry. In-depth analysis of word meanings and nuances. The intricacies of snow. Building and designing an obstacle course for his robot. You know – the things that really matter to him. The things that will really matter as he grows up.
I can evaluate his reading comprehension so much better by assigning a book and discussing the plot twists, ideology, viewpoint, and minor details after he’s done reading. And after he’s learned to read, of course.
I can check his capitalization and punctuation progress in his writing. No need to analyze sentences and figure out if the narrator REALLY meant to pause there or does the sentence need that comma after all?
Testing can be helpful to pinpoint what the student needs to work on. It’s certainly not a complete look at any sort of progress. And it’s definitely not a good benchmark for assessing teacher abilities. It’s not worth stressing our kids out and rating an entire school for sure.
I hate standardized testing. Now that my child is fighting through it, I can say that with honest sincerity: it’s a waste. Because it proves absolutely nothing to those regulating homeschooling in our state. Zip. Nada. It’s pointless.
Makes me sick to think of all the poor kids in school stressing over testing. Because it’s so pointless.