I work part time as a public school test coordinator. I don’t believe in standardized tests but there I am organizing, sorting, problem solving computer issues, calendar issues and staff needs.
Today we began our state tests for the spring season. We began with science. We are three days from spring break but really wanted to get this test for our 5th graders done and out of the way. It is not as long as the reading and math. There is some support to help them through but no matter what it is a hard tests for them.
There is so much to think about when you are in elementary school and testing. There is the mechanics for working the computers. The knowing how to make the graphs, charts and videos work. Then there is the science vocabulary that needs to be mastered, the concepts being presented and the problems solving to be done. One hour into it today and they were tired. Their eyes hurt and they were ready to move.
They were great! They focused and worked hard. They remained still and quiet while others were finishing. All that said and done there are those statements that hurt when you hear them
- “how am I suppose to know I just started school in fourth grade” ( a new ELL student)
- “my tooth won’t come out and it really hurts, it makes my whole head hurt” (you know kids are still getting their adult teeth in fifth grade)
- Then there is a kid who just can’t stop his body from moving – moving really fast – to fast to sit and test today. We will try again tomorrow.
- There is a child who is just started learning English who knows enough right now to click on one of the circles and click the arrow to move forward.
- Then there is the child who knows the content, knows the vocabulary and has strong study skills so they listen, answer and go back to review their answers after each section.
Everyone of these students are smart, capable but they each come to school with different backgrounds, experiences and support. They each come having had a different type of evening –
- One might be home with mom and dad eating dinner and going to bed at a good time,
- One might be home babysitting young siblings and making dinner as Mom and or Dad work a second job and return home a bit late,
- One might be sleeping on the floor or in the back of a car since they had to leave their apartment in a hurry when there was not enough funds to pay the rent this month,
- One might be gong to bed early without dinner because there wasn’t enough food in the house. It is the end of the month and they may be waiting for the April paycheck to get the next set of groceries.
Some adults sorting through the ins and out of what our students should be able to do by the time they reach 5th grade forget each student comes with different skills, experiences, emotional needs and different types of stress.
I remember when little my mother being told I was not doing well as a student. Being told that I really struggle with school and was not a reader, was not doing well on tests. I remember thinking I was a dumb kid. I also remember not sleeping at night, having nightmares and fears of being left alone without any support. My father had died the beginning of September that year. My struggles in school had very little to do with being dumb but more with not sleeping and holding so much fear inside because I couldn’t understand what had happened to my father. Where was he and why did he leave us? Since we were from a good Swedish background this was not talked about. We put one foot in front of the other and moved on.
I get it when kids just can’t make it during the test. I understand when they look at me like what??? What am I suppose to do here? I just wish some of our congressman and woman could see those faces and understand those differing needs when they insist we test and test and test elementary students.
And so the testing season begins!