Whew! I’m so glad we’re in a new week. Last week we took the entire school week to do standardized testing. Our state requires proof of progress every year, and we have the option of doing testing or an evaluation. I always do testing early just in case the Engineer bombs the test and we need to schedule an evaluation.
You might be thinking “why not just do the evaluation instead?” It costs more, and the kids need to practice taking tests so that when they take one that actually has high stakes like the ACT or SAT, they’ll be prepared. Successful test taking is half about the strategy anyway, so I think it’s an important skill to have.
Every time we do this it strikes me just how inaccurate these tests really are. Only a certain subset of kids will take tests well. Of those kids, some might not be able to read fluently enough to make the test accurate at this grade level. Tests can only cover so much material, and it measures memorization more than it does actual learning. It’s inherently limited.
This was not pleasant
Let’s just say that my kids does NOT test well. We used an untimed version of the old CAT test (the newer version is the Terranova) in an online format, so he wasn’t overwhelmed by multiple questions on the same page. He took his time, took breaks, and split sections up over the week to make it manageable. It was still torture.
At one point I was yelling at him to get his butt back to the computer (he got up and walked away because “this is too boring”) and those words spewed out of my mouth. You know, the “you can just go to public school then!” kind of words. Mom fail.
Public school is (not) a threat
I do my absolute best to not make public school a threat. Because it isn’t – it’s not horrible. Plenty of kids go to public school and do just fine! My kid? Well, my kid wouldn’t do just fine. Not without a host of accommodations that they would be reluctant to give him because he looks and acts “normal” most of the time. Right up until he doesn’t.
When I was calmer I explained to him that kids in public school do this too, but they don’t get to take breaks like he does. They do the timed version and have to do the entire section at once. His eyes went wide. “All 70 math questions at one time?” I nodded. “Yes, son, all at one time.” He took some time to digest that, and diligently worked on the next section without complaining (much.) The next day we did it all over again, complete with him giving up, me getting frustrated, and a hard talk about responsibility.
It is very demoralizing to realize that your smart, creative, amazing kid would absolutely fail the entire test if he had to do the timed version in a traditional school setting. He struggled with the amount of reading required, but when I could get him to focus and actually give a damn, he did great! Getting him to focus and care … now that was the problem.
The test measures nothing. Nothing but a willingness to sit down and grind your way through problem after problem. I know how badly he did on most of the sections. I was absolutely certain that he would fail because he kept getting sloppy and careless just trying to get through it. Amazingly, he passed anyway.
Not really accurate
I don’t count the grade level estimate as anything close to accurate. After all, how many kids would nail the reading comprehension section if they had a week to do it like we did? How many kids would score amazing if they didn’t feel anxiety to finish as many math problems as they could before the timer ran out? My kid had accommodations, and I feel like they skewed the results in his favor.
Still, it’s done. He passed the test, we checked the box the state requires, and we’re finished. This week we’re doing fun schooling and skipping anything boring so that he can get back to what he loves: actually learning.
Note: the untimed version is designed for kids who have special needs and require extra accommodations. The Engineer has a specific note from his doctor detailing his needs in case the school board ever requests it from us.