Well, it's almost that time again. Yep, the lovely state testing every parent and child waits for with eager anticipation. (Insert sarcasm here.)
For the past few years, my husband and I have chosen to opt our child out of this test. This year I thought that maybe we'd agree to let her take it. At our daughter's IEP in the Fall, it was suggested that we let her try taking it. Supposedly the test has accommodations built right in so we would not have to make an addendum to her IEP. We were told it'd be fun because it is given on the computer.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I received a phone call from my daughter's case manager asking if our daughter will be taking The Test this year. This is the second year in a row that we've received this phone call. Since Princess attends a school that is not in our district but is paid for with public funds, the district has to coordinate with the school as to how it will be given (dates, times. time frame etc.)
I asked my husband for his input on this because he knows more about it since he's taking classes to get his teaching credential. This test along with Common Core are hot topics in education right now. He said that he'd actually taken the practice test with a few of his fellow cohort students. He found the test to be very difficult but suggested that I ask for the link to the practice test so that I could see for myself. So I returned the case manager's phone call and asked for the link. She did not have the direct link but referred me to the vice principal of my child's school instead. I'm pleased to say that I was given the link in just a few short hours after my request.
Once I got the link, I went on the site as a guest user. I started with the fifth grade math portion since that is the test my daughter would be taking. Wow! After only a few questions, I got confused. Now I'm no math whiz but I did make it through Algebra II and Geometry. I also taught fifth grade math for most of my 23 years as an educator. I guess Common Corre just passed me up. I've been out of the classroom for two years. Additionally I haven't taught fifth grade in six years. I'm much stronger in English Language Arts so I figured I'd do better on that portion. Nope. Not even close! The reading comprehension questions were beyond my comprehension.
The format of the test itself is confusing. Several of the questions ask you to underline the correct response. So now children are being asked to navigate their computers to help them answer the questions. I'm all for computer competency but to add this element to a test that is supposed to measure academic abilities is just too much. I'm told that students practice taking this test so that they are familiar with how to work it, but I'm not buying it.
Even after this epic fail I still wasn't sure whether or not I wanted my child to take this exam. After all, most of her peers would be taking it or so I was told. I didn't want my daughter to feel left out. I also felt a little bad that I could be making more work for the school by asking them to find an alternate place for my daughter while her classmates took the test. I did take into account the fact that taking this test could put undue stress on my child. She may or may not be able to hold it together at school, but she'd probably let it out at home.
Another thing my husband and I had to consider was how taking this test would benefit our daughter. Is it required for her to progress to the next grade level? No. Will it help her fill out job applications in the future like a friend of mine was told by her son's school? Perhaps but I don't think I know of any 5th graders who have jobs so I think she can learn that skill when she's in high school. Will it test her knowledge of subject matter? Yes but is it an accurate measure of that? No. Is this the only way that the school can measure whether or not my child is meeting the standards needed to progress to the next grade level? No. Since my daughter has an IEP she'll be tested yearly to make sure she is meeting her goals. Even if she didn't have an IEP there are plenty of other ways that her teacher can measure her mastery of core skills. Oh, I know we should give her this complex exam that will push her to her limits so that we can compare her to other children in the country. Nope, I'm not buying that reasoning. How does my child benefit from being compared to her peers across the country or even the state?
Still my husband and I were torn. We weren't sure what to do. Then the wise man I married came up with a brilliant solution. He suggested that we ask a trusted professional who knew our daughter well. This individual said that knowing all that he knows about out daughter, he would not recommend her taking the test.
Based on his recommendations and our research, my husband and I did decide to opt Princess out of standardized testing this year.
I understand that in some states a parent has to appeal to the state board of education to opt their child out of testing but here in California it's as easy as sending an email to the school stating that we wish to opt our child out of testing. This was a difficult and gut wrenching decision for my husband and I to make, but I'm confident we made the best, most informed decision we could.
Whether your child has special needs like mine or is typically developing, what are your thoughts on this topic? Have you weighed the pros and cons? I welcome any comments on this subject in the comment section below.