Monday, March 4, 2013

Show What You Know

My daughter was afraid to go to school today, which is consistent with her thinking at the end of second grade when she was terrified of third grade in whole. It's not her safety; she isn't being bullied nor has the onslaught of gun violence created this fear, it's testing.

In Illinois state standardized testing begins in third grade.

She's a bright child who I know will do well on the test, but that isn't the issue. It's her fear and anxiety and what drives this which concerns me.  The truth is what starts now is not just this week's testing but an immediate future of bubbles to be darkened, test booklets to be opened, and timers to be set.

The challenge is in balancing the importance of the test with my child's sanity. She is not told that school funding is tied to her performance, or that her principal and teacher are evaluated based, in part, on these scores. She's eight, she has years and years of worrisome burden in front of her; for now the world is hers to enjoy and so this test, she is told, is a tool for the teacher, to help her better understand where her students are excelling and where they might need more help. It's an assessment, which seems a far less scary word to me.

One of the teachers at school tells her children to "show what you know". We've adopted this mantra, be proud of all you can do and all that you have worked so hard to learn, and yes, do your best. But remember, you still get to come home at the end of the day, and go on vacation and play with your friends and be a wonderfully silly eight year old girl. This test won't change any of that one bit, and that's very important to know.

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