Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Swimming Upstream: Thoughts on Testing

I didn't plan to test my daughter the week before schools started testing, it just happened that way.

Today's paper gave stats on how many students opted out this year. I'm proud of the parents who are standing up for their children. It's hard to swim against the current, but sometimes it is the only way to effect change.

I don't have the luxury of opting out. Testing is part of the requirements for homeschooling in our state. Since I'm already swimming upstream, I would rather save my energy for more important things. We stumble through a week of testing each year and in return we have the freedom to not test her for the rest of the year.

This year, our test changed to align with goals of the Common Core. We don't have the benefit of the curriculum that goes along with the test, we wouldn't follow it anyway, so any prep must be crammed into the week or two before the test is administered. It's annoying, but nothing we haven't dealt with before. I'm learning to take deep breaths to deal with my own anxieties over these tests and try to remember that the test is a tool. It helps to identify where she is strong and where she not. That is the point of it.I try not to worry about topics we haven't covered, because we are not learning on the same schedule as children in school. She is not behind, we are on a completely different clock.

I already knew she was good at reading and language arts, but I learned that my daughter is also really good at word problems. If every math question were a word problem, she probably wouldn't stress about math at all. Unfortunately, the same doesn't hold true for straightforward calculations. I was like that. Carefully figuring each sum to assure myself I had the correct answer slowed me down. I never figured out the beauty of patterns in math because I was too intimidated by numbers and trying to count out the right answer. I could never finish all of the problems in the allotted time. I thought math was a race I couldn't win. It made me hate math.

Our society looks at testing backwards. We worry about our children doing well instead of their well being. A test should help teachers and parents to identify areas to improve and determine whether they are ready for the next level. If we tell them that passing is all that matters, as if they are winning a game, they learn that passing is all that is valued, not learning. Is it any wonder that cheating and risk taking is on the rise? When are we, as a society, going to learn that the answer to education reform is not found if we keep looking for it in the same places--an extended school year, more homework,  a high score on a multiple choice test? You don't find change when you swim in circles.

I think educating your own or opting out is where true reform lies. Filling in bubbles leaves you without air. It's hard to swim that way.


Susan Gaissert said...

Wow. Your thoughts are profound, and your writing gets better all the time. Because of my state's laws, I never had to test my daughter; I cannot imagine what a chore that must be. Brava to you!

Inner Elder said...

Sounds like Sierra did well and this was confirmed. I like your philosophic attitude towards the testing. It is a good strategy for approaching any task we don't like. Change your perspective. This may be what is wrong with the school system - they keep throwing the same "solutions" (that don't work) at the problem. Love, Mom

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