Testing, Testing, Testing

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My six-year old son brought home his report card on Tuesday, and as a parent, I love the elementary report cards. They have both academic and behavior grades, but not in the form of a percentage or A,B,C,D, and F letter grade.  It focuses on benchmarks, areas that are needing improvement, progressing, and proficient.  It’s quite detailed and very informative.  The piece of paper in the envelope that was sent home that bothered me the most, was a graph explaining how he did on a recent standardized test (MAPs Reading Assessment).

According to the graph my child is not earning the RIT score he needs to in the winter season of first grade to be considered proficient….but on his report card he’s reading slightly above grade level.  I have no ill feelings towards Eli’s teachers.  They’re amazing.  What I don’t understand is why the state and federal level are requiring us to have little children test on computers…frankly why they have to take these tests at all.  I don’t think the maturity is there to be able to call this assessment environment a true measure of what a little child knows and doesn’t know.  Now, you might be thinking, “Oh Laura, you’re only on the defense, because your son didn’t score well.”  Look, I’ve seen the passages on these standardized tests.  They’re pretty dry.  The test-makers claim they try to find passages at students’ interest levels, but I find they usually miss the mark.  For example, when I taught 7th grade English, our state NeSA Reading Assessment had a passage about Tom Osborne, one of the legendary coaches of our Nebraska football team (if you’re not from Nebraska, we don’t have pro-football, so the Husker College football team is our state obsession).  I’m sure the test creators thought, “This is perfect!  Kids love the Huskers!” The problem is Osborne retired before any of my 7th graders were alive/watching football on TV.  To them, he’s not a household name.

The reason why I’m frustrated with my son’s dipping graph that was sent home, is because it doesn’t match how he’s performing in the classroom and it doesn’t match what my husband and I are seeing at home.  Our child reads and thinks about higher-level topics all the time.  A couple weeks ago he asked us, “What is a split atom?”.  His verbal vocabulary has always blown me away.  He will use a word like “element” instead of settling for “thing.”.  What many people, who don’t my son, will see when looking at this testing data is a number; a student who’s “not performing at grade level”, when in fact he is, and in his mind is probably mentally giving these computerized/standardized tests the middle finger.

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