I knew there was a reason I had to send my second grader into school the first day with 30 sharpened Ticonderoga #2 pencils. It isn’t technically fall yet but standardized testing has already started with a vengeance.
Over the first two weeks most days he had to complete a CogAT session. According to Riverside Publishing, the CogAT “measures students’ learned reasoning abilities in the three areas most linked to academic success in school: Verbal, Quantitative and Nonverbal”.
Last week our old friend MAP was back but with a couple of new twists for us this year. MAP is short for Measures of Academic Progress. His school last year likened it to a well-visit, but for school. As a second grader, he had to complete both reading and math sections; last year his school administered only the reading portion of MAP to the first graders. Also, his new school used the computerized version on the second graders.
I was so thankful the school principal included the testing schedule in last week’s newsletter. Second grade was first at bat in the MAP game and part of the fun that is parenting a gifted child means my son does not deal at all with sudden changes. As we discovered last year during the PARCC testing window at his school, these long stretches of standardized testing mean unwelcome disruptions in his schedule. Even though he won’t have to deal with PARCC until next year as a third grader, the computer lab effectively shuts down for those weeks as does the library. I was able to tell him days in advance he won’t have computer or library for the next two weeks plus give him a heads up this test will be on the computer, unlike the pencil and paper format he had grown accustomed to in his brief but busy standardized testing career.
Part of his testing overload is my fault. Last year in addition to MAP which he took three times in the fall, winter and spring, I subjected him to additional testing. I had him give up a Saturday during youth basketball season and take a few exams given through Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development for placement into their enrichment courses. I had reading scores for him but he was interested in math so they needed scores from math standardized tests which I did not have. As it turned out, the poor kid was running a 101 fever but it didn’t matter since he rocked the exams anyway. Still, that test was administered via human, not computer and I got the scores right away.
Standardized testing has become such a hot button topic among parents since the inception of No Child Left Behind and the chorus has only grown louder now in the Common Core era. For me, it’s a double-edged sword, for now anyway. I am not happy so much time has been spent on testing in the first three weeks of the school year, a time in which the children’s back to school excitement should be capitalized on by learning new and exciting material, not sitting in front of a computer, trying to choose the one correct bubble out of four on the screen.
At the same time, critical decisions will be made about my son based on his test results so I can’t immediately dismiss the process. In our new school district, placement for the gifted children’s program occurs in second grade. As I type this post, the teachers are reviewing his scores and giving him either a yea or nay.
Sadly, this year is as good as it will get for him. He will have to take MAP two more times, just like last year, but that’s it. Next year in third grade, in addition to MAP he will have to take PARCC, barring any major changes at the state level. Worse, most of the school year will be devoted to its preparation. Fourth grade will be even worse since he will have to repeat CogAT in addition to the annual MAP and PARCC testing cycles. That amounts to several weeks of halted learning and routine disruptions.
If he is indeed placed into the gifted program, every year MAP test scores will determine his continued eligibility. So there’s that.
What do we do? I think my main role in this is to ease any standardized test taking anxiety my son may have, as much as I can anyway. He is the kind of kid that likes to race through anything, whether it’s a worksheet or book, and finish as fast as he can so I have to remind him to slow down, read each question carefully and make sure the answer he wanted is the one he selected before moving on. This has been a problem for him on occasion with IXL homework. The other challenge he has is test frustration. The computer tests like MAP tend to be adaptive, which means if he answers a question correctly, the next question will be harder. What ended up happening last week is he got to a point on the math test in which he was given a problem type he had never seen before – addition of three, three-digit numbers – and it threw him off.
Of course the basics like making sure he gets a good night’s sleep and a solid breakfast help too.
How about your children? Are they also taking way too many tests in the early elementary school years? How do you and your children cope?
Don’t forget to like MBA Mom on Facebook for posts and more.
Like this and want more? Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.