Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Test Anxiety

My son's second grade class started standardized testing today. They are taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills [ITBS] and a test called the CogAT.

I first found out about the testing because a note was sent home on Friday. "Please do not schedule your child for any doctors appointments next week," I was told. "We will be testing." The note went on to say which tests and when. I read it twice.

Quite frankly, I was shocked and a little bit worried. Would my son even know how to do a test like that? What if he reads the question wrong or doesn't understand the instructions? And isn't this a bit young for us to be measuring students this way??

I called the school. The line was busy. Maybe I wasn't the only one who had concerns.

Testing only two weeks into school is a change for our school system. Usually, standardized tests are given in the Spring. The results are used to re-tool the curriculum for the new school year and to place children in gifted programs.

A quick search of the internet -- I wanted to find out what, exactly, these tests were all about -- plunged me into a quagmire of message boards where frantic parents were asking the same questions. Some were convinced that "a bad day" would doom their child. Others wanted to know how to "beat the system." It didn't take long for me to realize this was not the way to find answers.

On Monday, I spoke to my child's teacher. She let me know that the decision to test and when came from our school district, not the school itself. I spoke with the principal, who informed me that the scoring of the tests takes into account the year and month in which they were taken. That was a relief to me -- it means that our just-out-of-first-grade bunch won't be compared to their ready-for-third-grade counterparts.

My next job was to prepare my child. We talked about taking "fill in the dot" tests. I told my son to relax and just do his best. I make sure he got an extra half-hour of sleep last night and gave him a breakfast with extra protein so he wouldn't get tired. I explained that it was okay to leave a problem he had trouble with and come back to it later in the test and that it was okay if he looked at a problem and was stumped.

"You know, Mom. I've never had a problem with that before," he said in a tone of voice that made him sound twenty years older than he is. "I'm pretty smart, you know."

Yeah, I know.

What was it I was worried about, again?

Midwest Mom

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