Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Great Moments in Parenting

Let me be clear: I HATE the TAKS test.

To be a teacher in Texas is to have to live with the TAKS test, a.k.a. the Sword of Damocles, hanging over your head, once a year. And, when one is a teacher in a poor school in Texas - which I was, for seven years - you are reminded of it, every day, all year long.

Because, of course, in Texas, we believe in the high-stakes testing. The good folks of this state have put their faith in the (*cough* Republican) leaders of our state educational system, and these esteemed ladies and gentleman have assured us that pegging our kiddos' school performance on these measures is OK.

Why? Surely, performance on these measures must provide a good prediction of success in college. What, no? Then, clearly they must be good measures of academic proficiency, then? Yes, OK, that is true, to some degree. However, they also measure several unintended variables: first, it measures one's ability to take multiple-choice tests, or to "game" the system (e.g. to weed out the two stupid answers, to look at the two possible answers, and then to figure out which one of those is the "trick."). The other, secondary skill that it measures is attention, or stamina. Some kiddos, no matter how much they want to do so, just don't sit, and sustain attention, in this dry, silent, LONG, testing session that is the typical format of TAKS.

Now, I KNOW all this. I also know a lot about testing, about criterion vs. standardized testing, about predictive value, and about what Republican assfaces the State Board of Education are. I would never, NEVER, emphasize TAKS as a reason to make - oh, any decisions whatsoever, PARTICULARLY not making it the sole criteria regarding retention in the third or fifth grade. It's stupid to do so, and that's all there is to it.

With background established, the OG took her very first reading TAKS this year, that extremely important third grade year. You know, the OG? The one that was reading chapter books when she was four? The one that topped their reading assessments when she was in the first grade? And, yes, the one that is also extremely hyperactive, and duly medicated as such?

Well, of course, she did pass the damn thing. She only missed four, which is just fine. But, here's the thing: If she'd missed three, she'd have made "commended performance." And...god damn it, out of 78 kids in her grade, she is one of only 13 kids that DID NOT get "commended performance."

So, do you think - given my extensive knowledge of this subject, and personal experience with extremely smart kiddos that were just too spazzy to sit and take this test with anything like full committment - that I would:

a) blow it off, because this is a silly, artificial construct, designed to do nothing more than make parents feel better than other parents, and I know that she's hyper and a ferociously good reader ANYWAY, or:

b) berate her for not trying harder, and make my already anxiety-ridden daughter feel worse about herself after all of her friends have pranced up to her, saying, "I got a 100!" "I got a 100 too!"

You would think I would have naturally gone to the first option, wouldn't you?

Sadly, no. No, I didn't.

The good news is that I didn't actually end up DOING it. I wisely called The Man and Christie, my former reading teacher friend, who both emphatically insisted that I step away from this ledge and swallow all of my bilious ravings before I drive my child (more) insane.

So, I let it go with a couple of questions about what went wrong, if we could do anything to improve her focus next time, that sort of thing. We had a little attitude adjustment session about her already fatalistic attitude towards math, our Next Big Test at the end of the month. And I let. it. go.

Next morning, I run into her teacher at school. First thing out of her mouth: "I can't BELIEVE that the OG didn't get commended performance!"



Anne said...

Have you decided, based upon this test score that OG should forgo college and head straight to Walmart to become a greeter?


Besides, it's her teacher's fault that she didn't do better on the test, right? Isn't the teacher the one who is actually being tested? A good teacher would have taught all of the students the answers to the test (all facetiousness intended, for those who don't know me)

Connie said...

I'm glad you stepped away from the ledge. You know what the test measures and what it doesn't - as Einstein said "not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts".

Po said...

This past week my FAVORITE student, a true marvel from the enchanted south of India, came withing a hair's breadth of failing a quiz on World War I.

Go figure.

Also, a little parental pressure is not a bad thing, so don't sweat your reaction. You are doing it right!