Thursday, April 14, 2016
Are Standardized Tests Ruining Our Kids?
Natalie started standardized tests this week and I'll be honest: I don't like them. I don't like how they make kids nervous. I don't like how they take up so much school time. I don't like how teachers have to try and make it exciting for kids when they could be learning something else. (And let me say here that I appreciate all that teachers do--they should be paid so much more for all they have to put up with.)
Mostly, I don't like when I see kids terrified over doing poorly.
My daughter? When she started third grade she told me, "If I don't do well on the tests, I don't get to go to fourth grade." She chewed on her lower lip. "What if I don't get to go to fourth grade?"
She's not the only petrified kid. I see others in a panic and it hurts my heart.
In Oklahoma, it's true: a child can be held back if they doesn't do well on the standardized tests--HOWEVER--teachers are able to step in and speak up for the student if they feel they are ready for the next grade. But I heard last year many kids were held back due to these tests. Some kids even transferred out of their current school and into another because they were embarrassed. I also believe teenagers in high schools can't even get a diploma if they don't pass these tests.
This is not okay.
Yes, I completely understand that a child should not be placed in the next grade if he or she is not ready. But basing a lot of it off some standardized test? No.
Natalie is not the best test taker. She does get nervous. She does worry about not finishing in time. Because of this, when she takes her STAR reading tests, she's on the low end. I believe she finally made it to grade level, according to a computerized test.
Her grades are mostly As and Bs and high Cs (79.) I was actually told if she didn't improve her STAR reading test that she could possibly be held back.
Even though her grades are all passing. Even though her regular in-class test scores are passing. I asked if she needed to go to the tutoring the school offers before and after school and I'm told she doesn't need it. So I'm left baffled. I know lots of other parents who are baffled.
She will be going to fourth grade, mark my words. I know this because we are moving to Texas. In Texas, a parent can speak up if the school tries to hold them back. So if Natalie's Oklahoma school tries to say that her STAR test is low and that her standardized test scores are low so she should be held back...I plan on showing her report cards to Texas and proving that no, she understands what's happening. She even recently got an award for bringing UP her grades.
So far Natalie seems to be doing okay with the standardized tests. I know some parents opt their kids out of taking them. If Natalie ever gets completely frazzled, I might consider it. Her teacher sent home some papers asking if parents could write encouraging notes. I was tempting to write something snarky ("these tests suck"), but in the end, I wrote these:
Do I think standardized tests are ruining our kids? Maybe not. Ruining is a strong word. But they are hurting their self-esteem and adding to a list of their worries. When they first start these tests in the third grade the games and excitement the teachers use to make the tests seem fun work, but as the students get older, then what? I know many teachers despise these tests. When I share my distaste for them on my social media accounts, I've had many message me saying they agree, but they don't have a choice.
For now I wish my daughter luck on the test. I tell her to do her best and if the results aren't what she hoped, that it's okay. I remind her that she's smart. And capable of anything.
I remind her that a standardized test does not truly measure her knowledge.