This week, like many others across the country, my kids are doing their school state testing. The timing is not great, as it’s the first week back after spring break, but whaddya do? Across America, states have made standardized testing the idol at which they worship and plan their school year around. School state testing is so important that many school districts now start school earlier than ever in August and end earlier than ever in May. They start earlier to give teachers more time to “teach to the test” – every school week they can get in before April counts. And they end earlier because after the tests are done, what REALLY is the point? No more learning needs to be done, apparently.
My children are in 8th, 5th, and 1st grades and they are all testing this week. My boys don’t care that much, honestly, but my daughter, the 5th grader, STRIVES to do well. She’s raring to go and show that test who’s boss! But yesterday she came home discouraged. “A lot of the 5th graders didn’t do well on the first test, because it was on the computer and no one told us to save the results before we moved on,” she said. She was majorly bummed.
“Well, honey, that sounds like it wasn’t your fault,” I said. “And try not to let it bother you. I just want you to do your best, but I don’t really CARE if you do well or not.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. I’ve always cared how my kids do on their schoolwork, because they are all smart and capable of doing well – if they do THEIR BEST, they should get good grades. So she’s not used to be me saying that I don’t CARE what grade she gets.
“Let me tell you what I did with your school state testing results last year,” I said to her. “They didn’t arrive until the summer. They were very late. And do you know what I did with them when I got them?” I asked her.
“No,” she replied.
“I threw them in the TRASH,” I responded, “Without opening them. I didn’t even open them, Babe. I just threw them in the trash. Because it doesn’t matter to me what score you get on standardized school testing that the state of Ohio tells you you have to take. Because it tells me NOTHING about who you are, how hard you worked, or what you accomplished. So I don’t care.”
I could see relief and bewilderment mixed together flooding through my daughter.
“I want you to do your best,” I clarified, “because you should ALWAYS do your best. But I don’t care what score you get…do you understand? You know your dad and I have always told you we care more about you being a good PERSON over being a good STUDENT. We care the LEAST about whether you’re in the 99th percentile or the 50th percentile or the 7th percentile of 5th graders in the state. It just doesn’t matter.”
I think she got it, then. Later that night I repeated it to her 8th grade brother. My first grader, however, struggles with motivation, so I didn’t tell him I don’t care how he does, LOL. We’ll save that for when he has more “care” in general!
But honestly, if you’re listening State of Ohio: I hate the way you use my kids to measure your performance. My three, like all their classmates, are so unique and individual and I hate it that their abilities are measured on a “standardized” one-size-fits-all scale. Though I have two who will probably do well anyway, I have one who might never show his true level of ability on one of your tests.
But I am cool with that…because this year’s results are going in the trash. As a parent today,I have SO MUCH to worry about…your test and its results just doesn’t make the cut.
Parents, I invite you to join me in not opening your kids’ school state testing results when they come in the mail. Let’s all trash them together, or better yet – have a bonfire! After all, are they going to change what your child means to you, or what he or she is capable of? Of course not. As for me and my house, we’re gonna stick with teacher feedback and reports cards, and do our best to let our kids be kids – and not statistics.