Today marks the second day of state testing for my school. The air in the school is somber, tired, and a little bit cranky (both students and staff). No one believes that these tests are the best way to measure student achievement, yet we go through the motions for several days each year because we have to. Teachers despise the pressure to teach to the test, achieve unbelievably high passing rates, and push students to try their best on a test that they often believe dictates their success as a human being and in their adult lives. I try to downplay their significance as much as possible. This is no easy test when they are hearing the opposite message elsewhere.
As a parent, I also despise these tests. Several sleepless nights before the tests, tears the morning of from my daughter because she is just sure she will fail and have to repeat 8th grade math and never amount to anything. No doubt, she is a drama queen, but a gifted and talented student in pre-AP classes should not be worrying about failing these tests. Still, the message she has heard is that she must pass; her entire future rests in the test scores she earns in 7th grade. She has always received almost perfect scores in every test since she started testing in third grade, yet she worries.
My son, a fourth grader, has his own worries. He has to write for two days about subjects that he may or may not know a lot about. He’s a squirmy little boy; sitting still and working on one test for four hours is challenge enough. Getting a good grade on the test is the other challenge. He’s ready and willing to play the game, but I also know him well enough to know that at some point in time he will decide the tests are ridiculous and give up even trying.
Testing is over for today. Unfortunately we don’t have the option of sending students home, so now we have to try to teach them for the next three hours. This task does not lend itself to a very productive today. In an hour I will head home, take a break, then come back tomorrow to start testing day 3 all over again.