13 May 2012

May I Chicken Out of Testing?

Thursday afternoon I was on my way home from working with educators when my sons's 3rd grade teacher called me. You may know the momentary panic a mom feels when seeing the school number appear on the phone. I answered calmly, mentioning that I was in the mountains with a weak cell signal and then waited to hear the voice on the other end of the line. The reply "well that explains some of it" was not immediately reassuring. I was thinking oh no--hope he's okay. What I learned was troubling. My eight year old had a melt down during state testing because he ran out of time to read the long passages and answer the accompanying questions. He had placed a tremendous amount of stress on himself because he wanted to perform well after benignly being told by his teacher that the scores would not affect him;they would only affect his school and his teachers. She regretted telling him that, telling me he had likely taken the statement to heart. He is a sensitive child who cares about others and his community, and he really likes his teacher.

 My position in education has benefits and challenges. One of the challenges is that I provide content consultation to the office of assessment at the state department. This is challenging because of my conflicting feelings of angst about the amount of standardized testing forced on children in public education. Now, I must say here that I do see the benefits of SOME standardized tests, but as a nation we have gone overboard with the amount of time spent testing our children.

As a parent advocate for my child, I am in a difficult situation because my professional life demands I be sensitive to the requirements set forth by our state and school system.  At the same time, it's difficult hearing my child tell me he wants to "chicken out" and skip the test because it's just too stressful. What do I say when he asks me if it's okay for him to chicken out, knowing America's public education system will continue to demand he take these tests throughout his entire schooling and even to gain college entry?

I don't know the answers, but I will continue to seek them and will continue to join forces with other educators and parents trying to make a difference in public education. For the sake of children in our country, we must not chicken out of looking for answers to change our test driven culture!