Teachers and standardized tests

The big news of the week is that Mickey’s teacher is no longer at the school.  If you have been reading for a while, you may know that there is a definite personality conflict between the two that has caused us some challenges. Mickey doesn’t like the guy. Period.  That in no way excuses Mickey’s behavior, but it certainly doesn’t help.  So, needless to say, Mickey is not heartbroken to see him go.  I liked the guy, but he wasn’t a good fit for Mickey, so it doesn’t break my heart either.  His para-pro is a licensed teacher so she will be stepping into that role for the remainder of the year.  Mickey likes her, so hopefully that will help.

What won’t help?  The stupid Georgia Milestones testing that begin next week when we return from Spring Break.  These tests have been a nightmare since Mickey began them in 3rd grade.  This is Minnie’s first year taking them too.  I am truly dreading the next two weeks.  The teachers usually try to maximize the importance of the tests, and hopefully attempt to minimize the stress.  That has been wholly unsuccessful for Mickey and Minnie is now ramping up her anxiety as well.  Mickey called me in tears Friday as he is convinced he is going to fail, and his teacher told him that if he fails Milestones, he will fail 5th grade.

Here are my issues with the testing:

  1. Mickey doesn’t test well and has yet to earn a mark higher than emerging learner on these tests.  That is equivalent to failure on these particular tests.
  2. Mickey isn’t fully working at grade level (see previous posts about concerns with his current placement and the pace they use).  His grades are solid Bs, but with interventions.  He is working ahead in math, but behind in anyplace where written expression is involved. So, how can they expect him to pass a 5th grade test when he is not even working at a 5th grade level in some areas?
  3. How do you justify failing a solid B student because of 3 days of testing over the course of an entire school year with the subject matter that the school is teaching him? There is no indicator that Mickey is behind because Mickey isn’t capable of learning.  We know there are written expression challenges (being dealt with through assistive technology), but he is doing the work being taught in his classroom. So, if the classroom is behind, in part because his class is made up of 3rd through 5th graders and in part because the extensive behavior challenges of all students in the room often drag the lessons to a snails pace, how is he supposed to perform at grade level on standardized testing?
  4. Minnie has an EIP – Early Intervention Plan (not to be confused with an IEP – Individual Education Plan) for reading.  So, while she has a solid B in language arts and reading, it isn’t quite at grade level either.  So, she is very concerned.  Unlike previous standardized testing, this is not multiple choice.  There are paragraphs to write.  Spelling is a huge challenge for her as well, though her written expression is fine.  I am very worried that she won’t hit the mark on these tests either.  Yet, her report card is As and Bs.
  5. These kids have been doing practice tests for weeks, and every single one just tells the kids that this is so important and applies that additional pressure.
  6. At no point has there been any discussion on holding either child back – just additional support as needed.  I think for Mickey, even failing the test probably won’t mean holding him back to repeat 5th grade.  I believe his IEP protects him from that.  My concern at this point is more his anxiety over the testing and what that means to him, coupled with the upcoming IEP meeting where we will discuss his transition to middle school and out of this setting and his anxiety/excitement over that.  He fears his move goes away if he fails these tests, so that is adding a layer of anxiety as well.  For Minnie, we have no idea how she will do on standardized tests, because she hasn’t ever taken one.  I may be worrying for nothing.  That scares me a bit.  For all intents and purposes, Minnie is neuro-typical, but there are some concerns.  She was fetal alcohol exposed (meaning we know there was exposure, and she met some of the criteria for an FAS diagnosis, but not all) and while we don’t have any diagnosed issues – there are concerns with memory, reading, and some possible indicators of dyslexia/dysgraphia.

Because of the undo stress this puts on the children, I am currently researching the option to opt out of this testing going forth.  But, I made Mickey do it in 3rd grade so that we could see how he does on testing and to see if his accommodations were sufficient. I am curious to see how Minnie does.   Starting in late February though, school seems to serve no purpose but to gear these kids up for this testing, and we see anxiety climbing with each week.  It has even put a damper on spring break Disney trips for the last couple of years, because they know they are going back to face the testing.

But, whether dampened or not, we will be finishing out spring break at Disney.  We leave tomorrow.  Mickey and Minnie decided to attempt 25 attractions at the Magic Kingdom on Thursday, so we have done some planning, set our fast passes and we are going to try. Mickey would really like to the #WDW47 challenge, but I really don’t think it is doable with two kids in tow (one of whom is Mickey, who on his best day is a bit challenging) – and has a 90% failure rate by hard core Disney goers.  So, we are going to try a different more manageable challenge.  Wish us luck.


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