Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Welcome to Homeschool. Now Take a Test.

We have a whole lot of freedom in our homeschooling but we are not beyond the reach of California standards, it seems. Because we chose to align with a public charter, SJ is subject to all the same STAR testing elements as public school kids. Today he had to take the 7th grade Writing Test.

My views on said tests have changed over the years. I will apologize now for my obnoxiousness over my first child's performance. I really had no idea that anyone could score lower than 98% on any portion of the tests. She made it look that easy. I'm not sure gloat would be the right word, but certainly I will admit to a wee bit of pride in her performance. My thought: Look how smart she is!

When my second child was old enough to submit to STAR wars, I mean testing, I discovered that not everyone scored 98%. Still, though, he did well enough to keep my parental pride afloat. My thought: Two out of three ain't bad. We are doing something right. Again, the apology...

If you don't have three children, I recommend adding to your quiver because really, the third will cure you of all delusions and control you may have thought you had.

Imagine my shock as I opened the end-of-summer envelope that would tell me, once again, how wonderfully smart my child had become only to discover the State had sent the wrong results. Only homeless children could achieve the low scores exhibited. I checked the name. My son. I checked the scores. Clearly, Below Basic. Yikes. What do you do with that?

I'll tell you what you do. You reevaluate the need for standardized tests and question what they really test. I'm not trying to be a sore loser here but really, if you think it through, you realize the tests are testing whether or not the school has achieved its teaching goals (as set by the State). Secondarily, I guess, it measures your child--if your child is a good test-taker. For a struggling learner (notice I did not say a Below Basic student), the tests only serve to frustrate. To a right brain learner who prefers spatial imaging, "big picture" thinking, and emotional connection, those test booklets are akin to writing a thesis in cursive...backwards.

Mind you, I am all for measurements. I am all for valid and reliable test documents as well. But these are not it. I wish I had the answer. In the free market, customers talk with their dollars. Competition breeds innovation and excellence and underperformers, unless subsidized by the government, eventually die. The problem for schools (and teachers) is that there are as many opinions as there are parents and because of the familial prejudice, we should all question the accuracy of parental review.

For now I am content with school choice. Homeschooling aside, I am fortunate to live in a county, state, and country that gives me options to find the best fit for each of my children. And each one has chosen different paths. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to homeschool as I do realize not everyone understands it, believes in it, or even worse, has the opportunity or the means to pursue it. (That's a whole 'nother post, discussing how we have set ourselves up to rely on public schools as both babysitter and teacher. I'm not moralizing here, just sayin' that's how it is.)

So we submit to the public standards tests. The results will be what they will be. It comes at a good time this year in that I can take no culpability in the poor results but I would hope that next year, we will see improvement. I am not holding my breath.

1 comment:

  1. Oh most definitely everyone needs 3 children :) I could have written this post. (except that I live across the country!) We are required to test our children yearly as homeschoolers in NC. They don't say what test, just a standardized achievement test. My oldest is always in the highest percentiles. My 2nd didn't do as well, but she had severe test anxiety. My third was just tested for the first time in January. I knew it was going to be bad, but the reality was worse than the expectation.