Saturday, June 15, 2013

What is "standard"?

What is standard?

It has finally happened.
I first found out via phone call on June 12.  Then, a letter arrived on June 14. 
We’ve been tripped up by State of Texas standardized testing.
From the Texas Education Agency:  The purpose of the end-of-course (EOC) assessments is to measure students’ academic performance in core high school courses and to become part of the graduation requirements beginning with the freshman class of 2011–2012. The EOC assessments for lower-level courses must include questions to determine readiness for advanced coursework. The assessments for higher-level courses must include a series of special purpose questions to measure college readiness and the need for developmental coursework in higher education.”
While I’ve never been fond of end-of-year testing, I became quite concerned during the 2011-2012 school year when the State of Texas instituted the STAAR (and, for high school, the EOC) exams.  My primary concern was that to graduate, students must have a subject-cumulative score that surpasses simply passing each EOC.  There has to be at least one “commended” score in the subject; some bonus points, so to speak. 
Why was I concerned?  We have a unique student.  One of our kids probably spends triple the time of other students on school work.  Standardized tests have always been an issue for this child.  The preparation, extreme focus and discussion at school causes a great deal of anxiety.    We work very closely with the school district to support and aid this child to reach their level of success.  For standardized testing, slight allowances were re-instated this year.   In short, our student is allotted extra time – if needed – and takes the tests away from the general classroom.  The thought was that the pressure will be less intense.
I intensely dislike the term “standardized testing.”  What child becomes the standard that the others must meet?  What one student succeeds to the level of “minimum score”?  What about “satisfactory performance”?  Or – the awesomeness of “advanced performance”?
Apparently, not our student.
Yet, we worried.  Our primary concern was geometry.  So much information to include on ONE standardized test.   Although we didn’t learn the score, the geometry teacher allayed our concerns by letting us know our student had passed.  Whew.  Tests conquered.  Relief.
Until June 12.  Our hard-working, diligent, anxious child did not meet the standard on an EOC exam.  And, oddly, it was not a course that had caused us worry. 
It was English.
English, where through a year-long effort on tests, quizzes, papers, daily work, notebook checks, reading checks, and a project, our student had a cumulative  score of 88.  Pre-AP English.  An awesome 88!  But, since the EOC minimum score was missed by a miniscule amount, now a shadow is cast on the entire year.  One day - one test - a few points.  vs.  an entire school year - multiple grades averaging B+ - pre-collegiate level work, expectations and effort.
Meeting the minimum standard on the EOC is a graduation requirement.  A passing grade of 70 in regular English is a graduation requirement.
An 88 in pre-Ap English?  Doesn’t matter.
The beauty of all of this is that an EOC review is offered by the high school.  The letter dated June 10 and received June 14 described the review in detail.  Sad part is, the review began on June 10.  I imagine enrollment was pretty low.
So, our student will now forfeit part of their Summer to attend weeks 2 and 3 of a review.  A child who was so high and excited by their final grades has now been told ONE TEST has determined they aren’t good enough.  Never mind the projects, the fiction read, all the writing completed. 
Our goal as parents has always been to encourage our kids to do their best at being themselves.
Try creating a standardized test that measures that.