Saturday, January 27, 2007

standardized testing

How Kain's school prepares for standardized testing-
-making curriculum choices that will maximize test performance
-doing practice tests at school
-sending home packets of practice worksheets every week so that he can practice at home
- giving us a website where we can print off even *more* practice tests
-dangling carrots in front of the teachers- there's been talk in the papers of giving teachers financial rewards for good scores from their classrooms.

How we prepare for standardized testing-
-"Hey Maria, you remember how to fill in those little bubbles on that test you took last year, right?" "Uh-huh."

Homeschoolers in Arkansas are required to take the ITBS in 3rd-10th grades. Last year, since it was her first time taking such a test, we did a couple of "dry runs" so that she would be comfortable. By mid-first grade, she'd had enough experience with "real school" tests to be pretty darn nervous about it. I really did plan to do more that first year, but didn't get to it. I was a little concerned because she was struggled with reading and spelling. She still scored better than the state average. I think this will only improve as she goes on too. Our curriculum is pretty gentle in the early years and slower to progress in certain subjects than the public school's. But it's a well thought out curriculum and starts to pick up the pace right around 3rd-4th grade, and by the junior high years it is pretty darn good a college prep program as I've ever seen. I like the balance. I *want* the early years to be fun and enjoyable with lots of time for learning through play, and I *want* the curriculum to also be solid enough that my kids go on and do whatever they want in life. I know I could raise her test scores in this "in between" time by teaching to the test the way the public schools do, but I refuse to do that. I refuse to waste one iota of my precious school time by worrying about these silly tests. It's just one of my many prerogatives as a homeschooler. I tell Maria that the test is made for public schoolers and the books that they use, that different books teach things in different grades, and to just do the best she can and not worry about it. I make sure she knows how to actually take the test so that she doesn't miss problems for not coloring the circles properly or something like that. I give her a good night's sleep and a good breakfast. And then I let it go.


Entropy said...

You should read _What does it mean to be well-educated?_ It's a great collection of essays by Alfie Kohn. How can you 'accurately' (as if standardized tests could ever) test what a child has learned while teaching to the test? He asks some good questions and 'follows the money' which is always interesting!

I've also wanted to read _Punished by Rewards_ by him but the library doesn't have it. :(

J.C. said...

Yes, we are kind of facing this sort of dilemna ourselves. Although my daughter has tested very well on the 'mail-order' standardized tests we have done in the past, these were not the official state ones, and I filled in all the answers for her (this was allowed by the lady who grades them and sends the results until third grade). So I am a little apprehensive about letting my daughter test without prepping her, something I used to think I would never do! Hmmmm...