Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Lesson in Standardized Tests

My kids graduated from high school in the late 90’s so I didn’t have the “pleasure” as a parent to go through a round of standardized testing.  However, I now have a 3rd grade grandchild who is going through this for the first time and it has given me a greater appreciation for the stress placed on parents, teachers and students.  Although I served as a school board trustee from 2005-2015, this is a new experience for me.

To the credit of his school district (Frisco ISD), his teacher has worked feverishly to remove the stress from her students.  More than once, he has talked about STAAR camp in his school and it is always in a positive light; he seems to be enjoying the “ride” (free pizza doesn’t hurt!).  Whether in the classroom or even on the ball field over the weekend, he has heard nothing but positives about this experience.  Kudos to those who are doing their very best to manage the stress for the kiddos.  It’s encouraging to know that there are those who focus on the students and not the test itself.

Last night, I was discussing the STAAR test and some of its ramifications with my wife. She mentioned that my grandson came home from school and proudly announced to his mother that he thought he only missed one question on the math portion.  This was important to him since he said that his teacher mentioned the desire (never saying “must”) to have every student score at least an 80 on the test.  As I discussed the STAAR test with my wife, the importance of it and why population groups are important, she had the same question that most of us have, “Why?”.

I did my best to explain the intent and unintended consequences to her but she became more frustrated the more we talked.  Could it be that I was the one that was creating the frustration?  Certainly possible (perhaps even probable!) but I got to wondering how many parents experience this same level of frustration.  I also wondered how well teachers and administrators are explaining this to parents and students.  By the way, in most districts with which I am familiar, they are doing a great job in this area.

My daughter and her children are blessed to live in a district that puts kids first.  Rather than “drill and kill” and focus on the outcome, my grandson’s teacher went to great lengths to ensure that she minimized the stress of the test as much as she could.  Frisco ISD should be proud of the efforts of their teachers and should be applauded for the focus on making education (not strictly outcomes) the priority for these students.  Outcomes will be an ultimate result of their efforts, not the focus on a system that shifts the emphasis from teaching to testing.

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