Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Standardized testing pep-talk letter

N will take the state standardized tests at school soon, and parents have been asked to write their child(ren) an encouraging letter, urging them to give their best effort.

I will write the letter, but I am debating what I will write.

I understand why the schools want parents to write these letters.  I get that so much emphasis is placed on these tests, and that the teachers and administrators are often just towing the line....doing what they must to ensure that scores go up, and they don't suffer the penalties of state legislators who don't know what the fuck they are doing.  Legislating things that can't be legislated, like that all children will learn and test the same and have the exact same seed of knowledge in their heads.

The letter request sorta galls me, even though I know that is not the intent.  I know this letter is sent to all the parents, including the ones who don't instill those learning behaviors and skills that I have worked to instill since my children popped out of my uterus.  It makes me sad to think of the kids whose parents won't write them letters.

Here are some of the things I want to say in my letter:

*This test, while meaningful in the context of 4th grade, is meaningless in the grand scheme of your life so don't stress over it.  Ask yourself in all you do "Will this matter in 5 years?"  If it won't, don't freak out about it much.

*Do your best, not just on this test, but in all that you do.  Not because of your school or because of me and Daddy, but because doing your best makes YOU feel good about yourself.

*Grades and test scores don't mean much to me.  They don't always indicate what parents think they indicate.  I would expect you to be proficient and/or distinguished because I know your skill set, but that skill set is not something you can control.  The brain you have is out of your control.  You happen to have really good comprehension skills.  Some kids do not.  Getting a proficient or distinguished doesn't make you special.  Kids who get lower scores might have other skill sets that standardized testing simply doesn't measure.  Or they might have parents who never took the brain their child had an tried to optimize it.  Daddy and I were taught to value education, and we pass that along to you and your brothers.  Not every kid has parents who do that.

*I'm much more concerned with how deep of a thinker you are, whether you reflect on your thoughts, your actions, your feelings.  Whether you treat others and yourself with respect and kindness.  No standardized test in the world measures those things, and those are tendencies you will use until you die.  They will serve you much more than fractions or knowing how electricity runs through a circuit.

*Standardized tests suck the fun out of learning, but don't allow that to happen.  Find things that interest you and read about them, experience them.  There is always delight in learning....always.  The world unfolds in magical ways if you seek its wonders openly.

Now go take that stupid test.

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