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I Am Dying of Standardized Testing

I bitch a lot about our school system.  I’m aware of this unattractive trait, but I’ve just decided to just go with it.  My latest gripe?  SOLs.

If you’re unaware, SOL stands for Standards of Learning, and also Shit Outta Luck, meaning that toward the end of the school year, you are shit outta luck if you were planning a life that includes fun, relaxation, low levels of stress or anything outside of studying massive study guides that may or may not cover the information on the test.  These tests are a much a measure of the quality of education in the school as the students’ ability.  Big Brother gathers these test scores to determine if the student is promoted to the next grade, and also determines if the school is doing well enough to, I don’t know, receive government funds, keep their teachers employed or avoid a governmental finger-shaking.  I’m actually not 100% clear on the consequences of low test scores, but I do know that most of my children’s teachers are freaking the hell out about it.

via apsva.us

via apsva.us

Here’s what I’ve got.  I have one child who has a brain like a computer, does not forget information (ever.  literally. ask him sometime about oceanic upwelling.), and takes a standardized test like a boss.  This one is also pretty high-strung and tends to shut down in high stress circumstances.  I have another child who is equally as brilliant, but does not test well and tends to forget everything she has ever learned in her entire life when someone puts a Scantron sheet in front of her.  When in a high stress situation, she starts throwing up and gets migraines.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going here.  I get that these tests are important.  I am willing to sacrifice my free time in the evenings to review all this mind-numbing information with these children.  I will make sure they get plenty of sleep and a good breakfast before the test.  I will find practice tests on the internet and force them to take them on Sunday afternoons, which is clearly just shy of cruel and unusual punishment, won’t someonecalltheauthoritiesplease!  My point it, I’ve got this.  I know how these kids learn and I know how they best prepare for testing.  I know that one needs all the math practice she can get in order to pass and I know the other one damn near needs medication to get through the essay-writing portion.

I also know that what neither one of them need is the incredible pressure that the schools put on these children.  There are ways, I am sure, to impress upon these kids the significance of the tests without crushing them in stress.  And I’m certain that our teachers are experienced enough and well-trained enough to understand the impact that this has on some children.  You want my kid to have a nervous breakdown?  Use the words “fail” and “test” in the same sentence, then sit back and enjoy the show.  There will be many tears and much vomit.

So, I’m okay with spending a whole night discussing 5th and 8th grade science, only to find out that virtually nothing we studied appeared on the 8th grade test.  I’m okay with signing off on my son’s math notes, ensuring that he studied.  (This was a lie, but considering that this kid has earned a perfect score on every math SOL he’s ever taken, I’m pretty sure he’s good.)  I’m good with you reminding the kids to get a good night’s sleep and I think it’s really rather touching when you give the 8th graders a juice and a snack on test day.  I am just not down with the stress-inducing lectures and I promise every teacher out there, for every scary speech you give my children about testing, they get three more at home contradicting everything you’ve said.

I’m just trying to keep the crazy to a minimum around here, you know.

  1. May 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    I think you should be nominated for an award for crisis response. I recall testing stress all too well and the panicked lectures… ugh. FCAT’s down here are beyond. I opted out and took the California state ones instead. Of course, my state has one of the worst education systems in the country so… Either way, you have this down. My Mom did the same thing whenever I had finals week in college. She’d drop off food and brightly colored post it page marker things every few hours (or whenever she heard the wailing).

    I’m a little jealous of your son. I’m exactly like your daughter who struggles with tests (and they also make me violently ill)… pepto pills saved my life, it might do her some good too. 🙂

    • May 26, 2013 at 7:01 am

      Thank you…I always think I should get an award, too. 🙂 I’m so, so relieved that the tests are finally over. I know some of our teachers are making noise about trying to change the system. I so hope they do, I’ll be right beside them. We’re talking about kids as young as eight dealing with this. It’s ridiculous.

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