testing, one two three

The Bee is experiencing the joys of state testing for the first time this week. She was tremendously stressed out about it all weekend. There is something deeply wrong with a society that believes that 8-year-olds deserve academic stress.

I told her, during one of several conversations we had about how her performance on the statewide test of third graders would not unalterably determine her life’s path, that in a way, the test was more a test of her teachers than it was of her. That she would do well, but that the thing that was really being tested was how well her teachers were teaching all the kids in the class.

And you know what? I don’t really think that’s a great idea for our society either.

One of the things that I love about the Bee’s school is that it is very small. It’s so small that there is only one class for each grade. Lots of the parents know lots of the kids–not just the kids in their own child/ren’s class, but in the whole school. And it’s really a community, where the teachers know all of the kids, and the principal can not only greet each child by name, but really knows something about who they are as students.

Last year, her school had an impressive improvement in the third grade test–the scores were significantly improved over the prior year. But I’d guess that has about 80% to do with the fact that the current fifth grade (the third grade of two years ago) is filled with kids who are overactive and have a lot of attention problems. This year’s fourth grade (last year’s third grade), on the other hand, is a much quieter and better-behaved group of kids.

The Bee’s class? My bet is they’re somewhere in the middle. Does that mean if they slip ten percent from last year’s testing that the teacher was ten percent worse at her job this year? or does it speak to the vagaries of kid personalities, and attention spans more than anything else?

When the Bee came home last night, she ran up to me, gave me a great big hug, and said, “you were right Mom, it was easy!” She went to school this morning without being stressed about the test, and I’m happy about that. I just hope that the teachers  get to relax about it soon too.


March 11, 2008. thoughtful parenting.


  1. Carrie replied:

    I’m so glad there are people who understand this. Why can’t the powers that be understand this? When I used to teach Survivor was a new show and we all used to say that they needed a Survivor: High School edition with politicians and business people thrown into the role of high school teachers. Of course, it woudln’t work since it would be such a disservice to the students.

  2. Sandra replied:

    When my daughter had her first standardized tests, we had the same problem–she was stressed out and crying, worried about the dumb tests. I did the same thing you did–I told her it was a test of her teacher. I told her she should do her best, but that her score would be averaged in with everyone else’s score, so if she did extremely well or extremely poorly, it wouldn’t make much difference overall, since one score can’t drastically change the average. It took all the pressure off, and she did fine on the test.

  3. MetroDad replied:

    I remember hearing something recently about how school curriculums are being geared to help students improve on standardized testing. The only problem is that these tests tend to be more focused on math skills (because they’re more quantifiable and easy to compare across the board.) One of the unforeseen circumstances is that schools tend to lose focus on skills like reading comprehension or writing (because they’re hard to measure, the tests don’t tend to focus on those subjects.)

    Now if I could only remember if I read that article in the NY Times or if I saw it on The Wire!

  4. Jennifer (ponderosa) replied:

    MetroDad — My kid’s only in kindergarten, so I don’t speak from much experience. But in his class, his time is at least spent 90% on reading/writing and only 10% on anything else. Which is a terrible shame, because he dislikes reading/writing and loves math and science.

  5. Jody replied:

    I’m glad to hear you are over the first-day hump.

    One of our girls is going to have a terrible time leading up to the test– she’s a worrier –and I’m already pissed off on her behalf.

  6. Library Lady replied:

    My kid is the opposite, she just doesn’t GET that the tests are important. And mostly, I’m happy to have her think that way, I don’t want her stressed. But I don’t want her to be so cavalier about them that she doesn’t concentrate while taking them!

    Don’t get me wrong. I think they’re bunk. And I know (sigh) that you CAN flunk your math Standards of Learning Test in Math several years running and still get promoted. Because that’s been the story with her big sister since 5th grade, and may very well be until she finishes high school. Sigh….

    But I want JR to do well because she’s perfectly capable of it. The little brat!!

    One other thing, Landismom. I know you’re glad Bee’s school is small. But keep your eye on it as she gets older. Girls get nasty socially and the small size of SC’s school made it hellish for her in 5th grade. And a lot of her peers really freaked when they got into middle school and suddenly were thrown in amidst hundreds of new people.
    They went from being big fish in a small pond to small fish in a big pond!!!
    Of course, that made it fun for SC 🙂

  7. MommyWithAttitude replied:

    I could tell you a long boring story about my childhood and why I hate those standardized tests, but basically I agree with you. Education critics either blame the parents or the teachers. Period. It makes me crazy. And my son’s first grade class, his teacher even told me that they have such a rigorous math and language curriculum that she does her best to squeeze in a littl art, science, social studies, etc. here and there. It’s really unfortunate.

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