Testing, testing - FamilyEducation

Testing, testing

April 30,2009
I have a knot in my stomach these days. It's not for myself, but for L. Next week is EOG week at L.'s school--the week the end-of-grade tests are administered in North Carolina to students in third, fifth, and eight grades. Other students in other states are facing end-of-year testing too: Florida has the FCAT, Illinios has the ISAT, New York has the NY math test and the ELA (language arts) and in North Carolina, we have the EOGs. And while L.'s school does everything they can to try and make EOG testing "fun" and stress-free, I'm sure none of the kids taking the tests will remember the experience being at all fun (taking tests is like going to the dentist, isn't it?). In fact, going into the test many kids will have already endured a fair amount of stress, I'm sure, if they haven't already. It's a difficult time for parents, as well--especially if your child doesn't test well. It's also a helpless time because there's just so little you can do to help prepare your child for end-of-grade testing. Or is there? A neighbor recently forked out some hefty money to pay for extra math tutoring for her son. The school told her he might not pass the math EOGs and could face being retained. In the parking lot the other day I heard one mom telling another mom that for some weeks now they have been setting aside 30 minutes/day to "study" for the EOG exams--an exam that isn't supposed to be studied for, really, since it's supposed to reflect skills and knowledge accumulated throughout the school year. But even though I know intellectually that there is no way for a child to really study for the tests, I still felt a moment of panic when I heard those moms talking--it was like that feeling of dread you get when you walk into class one day and discover you have a test you didn't study for. We're lucky to make it through a homework session with L. with our patience (and hair) intact, let alone make him work through thirty minutes of extra EOG prep work like this (a poem about bubble gum?). I know most parents are not making their kids study for these end-of-grade exams, but I also know that many parents around here are worried about the tests; worried about how their children will score, and worried about how their children will feel when they take the exams. My worries started months ago, when it became clear that enrichment curriculum options were being pushed by the wayside so teachers who found themselves strapped for time in the classroom could focus more on the material that the EOG will cover; in other words, more creative, potentially interesting enrichment material that might have appealed to students (yes, I'm talking about my own son) with a wider range of interests was left by the wayside in order to teach to the tests. I've heard these concerns echoed by third grade parents at other schools as well. It's not the teachers' fault; schools are strapped for resources and time, and with budget cuts looming for next year they will find themselves even more strapped. But I still think it's unfair for our children--young children at only eight or nine, to have to feel so early the pressure of days of test-taking, and to have to miss out on more creative curriculum all in the name of preparing for three days of test-taking. We're keeping things very casual and calm around here as far as the EOGs go. Without a lot of hoopla about it, we're spending about 5-10 minutes each day (sometimes at dinnertime, sometimes in the car, sometimes during homework) just mentioning the tests, and touching base on small things: whether L. is worried (he says he's not), what the readings on it might be about, how he might feel while he's taking the tests. But really I think the best thing we can do is be low-key about it all, cross our fingers, and hope for the best. Is your child getting ready for end-of-grade testing? What are you doing to help prepare them for days of test-taking?