Dear Standardized Test *Updated**UPDATE* It's ISTEP week for my son and everyone else in the state of Indiana. Last night he asked me, "Dad, do you think I'm smart enough to pass the ISTEP?" I responded, "Micah, you're smart no matter what that test says." Micah smiled, hugged my neck and said, "Thanks dad."
Let's remind our students during this testing season that nobody is ever defined by one event or one test, but are defined by the sum of daily choices we make throughout our life.
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*Warning* This blog may be more of a rant than anything...
Last night I was putting my three boys to bed and we were saying our nightly prayers. As our custom is in my family each boy, ages 3, 6, and almost 9, each have a turn to pray about whatever they want. My three year old prayed that he loved his brothers and playing the wii. My six year old prayed about school and to help him and his brothers to be good. Then my oldest, who will turn 9 on February second, prayed a prayer that made me send out this tweet as soon as we were done:
Micah's prayer, "God, help me pass iRead and iSTEP so I can pass the 3rd grade." Thank you state test for ruining nightly prayers. #edchatNow, I want to say that I don't find this prayer a reflection of my kids' school. I absolutely love the school they attend. They have strong PLCs that lead to innovative instruction. They have no textbooks, no homework, and no grades. My kids love to learn and have grown tremendously at their school. I plan on blogging about the school at some point in the future because they are a groundbreaking school. However, at this time, I'd like to finish my rant.
— Brett Clark (@Mr_Brett_Clark) January 25, 2012
The thing that I didn't tweet last night was Micah's six year old brother's response. He looked at Micah and asked if he would pray for him and Levi so they would pass the test too. It was such a sincere moment and Micah went to work and prayed that Nathan and Levi would pass the test too when they were his age.
I can not begin to tell you how sad this made me. First of all, I do not think my oldest will have any problem passing the test this year. He is a smart young man who loves to learn. He was given a four book series for Christmas from his grandma. Each book is close to five hundred pages and he has read two of them in the last 3 weeks for a total of over 900 pages. Not to mention the books he's checked out from the library during that time and yes, I'm bragging. Secondly, I personally don't care if he ever passes a state exam because they will never tell me anything I didn't already know about my child.
What bothers me is how much he cares about the test. Again, it's not his school's fault he cares so much, all they have done is shared with him the facts of the exam they are forced to give. Now my son isn't worried about learning, he's worried about a test and if he'll get to go on with his friends to fourth grade. Now my middle child isn't concerned about the soil he was telling me he learned about at school, he's praying that he'll pass a stupid test in two years like his big brother.
This is where we are at today. The standardized test programs of our current education system do nothing but bully the kids they test. This is the definition I got when I googled the word bullying.
I can not think of a better definition for standardized test. How depressing it is to think that all the work a student does throughout the year comes down to a few days of testing. However, this is how our society is today. Ask Kyle Williams of the 49ers or Billy Cundiff of the Ravens. All of their work was brushed aside and both received death threats because of one day's work. Do we want to mirror that kind of thinking in education?
To my son, that's what the IRead and ISTEP are, a school death threat. In a time of his life when he should love learning, enjoy his friends, play games, and think girls have cooties, he's praying to God that he passes a test.
Dear Standardized Test,
Thank you for ruining our nightly prayers last night. Thank you for using your superior influence to intimidate my son and to force him to do what you want. Thank you for causing him to worry about the future when he should be enjoying the present.