Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Testing, 1..2...3...

The Old Man

As usual, this photo has nothing to do with this post...I just can't stand to have a photo-less post here on the old bloggity-blog...
Ahem. The ranting will now begin...

As a homeschooler, there are certain things I can do to buck the system. We don't school in the traditional school-year calendar, for example. This just so happens to be an off-week.

We'll call it, uhm, Mid-Winter Blues Break, okay? As long as we get our 180 days in a year, no one can tell me which days I have to use.

We don't have a traditional school-length day, either. Most days we start "formal" schooling around 9 AM and go until lunchtime, then read, have music lessons, sports, cooking class, home-economics (which sounds so much more schoolish than chores, people), and the like after lunch. We'll even have some more of that after supper if we feel like it.

As long as we have 4 hours on each of those 180 days, I'm golden.

My kids don't take a lot of tests, either. I can tell if they are comprehending what they are reading by asking them question about it informally. If they can tell me what happened in the story and are excited about it, I'm all...

A+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + !

We don't do any formal schooling on Fridays. That's a science experiment, art experiment, cooking experiment kind of day. It's a field-trip kind of day. It's a...a FRIDAY kind of a day.

There are, however, certain homeschooling laws I just can't get around, because they involve the state receiving money for educating all those children, whether they actually do or not.  Those laws require 5th, 8th and 11th graders to take achievement tests, and if they don't pass them, the school board has the right to insist a child be enrolled in public school, rather than be educated at home.

Now, each state is different in their requirements, and this state is actually an easy state in which to homeschool, but I still have to state that I object.

I object to standardized testing. I don't like it. I don't like it. I don't like it. It is NOT a test of knowledge. It is NOT a test of intelligence or learning.

It is a test of sitting down and filling in bubbles. It is a test of rising no higher than the lowest common denominator. It is a test of how well a child can concentrate in a stressful situation without being distracted by a roomful of other children.

As a kid, I was an excellent standardized test taker. I excelled at it. I enjoyed it. As a college student, I loved it. I never took a class on how to pass one. I never studied up on previous tests or took practice tests, and yet, I always did well on them.

The same could not be said of my actual grades in actual classes. Do you know why? I was an excellent TEST TAKER. I was not an excellent student until graduate school.

They are completely different animals.

ALL of that is to say that Derek had to take part of a standardized test today, as he's officially a 5th grader. It was a writing assessment, and he had to sit in a room of about 10 other homeschooled 5th graders and write a creative story about whatever prompt they gave him and he had 35 minutes in which to write it. It almost killed me. I'm still a little queasy.

Derek is not a test taker. Derek is a smart kid who can learn with the greatest of ease. He has an elephantine memory. When Joshua was a baby, he called Derek, "De-dic." We now call him "Eidetic." He can recall all the chapter titles in any book he's ever read. He remembers the numbers of boats in a particular fleet during Admiral Farragut's taking of New Orleans during the Civil War. If someone were to give him the task of writing the steps involved in building a Star Wars Lego Giganto-Enormous Thing With a Made Up Name, he could do it with precision.

"Imagine you've landed in unicorn land," is not really up his particular style of writing alley, though.


I'm sure he did a fine job. He told me what he had written (because he remembered it all, of course) and it sounded like a nice story, and I know for sure that his handwriting, punctuation and grammar will all meet or exceed the standards. I'm fairly sure that based on this one assessment, the school board won't be recommending he go to public school anytime soon, but still...I'm irritated.

I am irritated that the powers that be have deemed that creative writing is an appropriate test for every child's ability to comprehend language and use it in written form. I'm irritated that fantasy creative writing is the standard. I'm irritated that girly fantasy creative writing is the standard. Why not just insist that everyone include the words "glitter, fairy, princess, and knight-in-shining-armour" in their stories?

I wonder what would happen in the prompt was something like, "Imagine you've woken up in your dream garage. Write a story about the kinds of car parts you'd find there and how they should ideally be assembled to produce the highest horsepower and pound-feet of torque."

That's the kind of standardized testing we could get behind here...

Rant over. Have an excellent evening, all you non-standard people out there.

I love ya.