Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Test anxiety

Logan was over at his dad's place this week, but since today is Alana's birthday he gets to spend it with us. He's also in the middle of his Iowa tests. (For non-Americans, or Americans without kids, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills was developed by the University of Iowa. It's one of the standard tests given to kids from kindergarten to grade 9. This is Logan's first year taking it.)

Last week Logan was getting a bit worried about the test. It didn't help that on Thursday he forgot his homework at school. He had me make up some questions so he could prepare for the tests.

While it's probably a good thing for kids to take tests seriously, Logan's school seems to take it further than I'd like. They've pushed the kids all year with warnings that they had to do well on the test. They sent a form back with him last week with instructions on it, like making sure he had a good breakfasts, and avoiding punishing anyone in the family (in order to reduce stress).

This test — which goes on all week — is more important to the school than to Logan. This year it doesn't count toward his grade. it does count toward the school's rating, and a poor rating will affect the school's funding. That's the real reason for all the stress on the kids. It's not so much about them, but about their institution (though in the later grades it is important for them to do well).

We didn't have standardized tests in Ontario when I was in school. I remember my grade 11 math teacher talking about standardized tests and why abolishing them was a good idea. They got rid of standardized tests because schools tended to teach for the test. It was more important that the kids knew how to beat the test than it was for them to know the material. Once the tests were done there was little the schools could do to keep the kids interested, particularly in higher grades. This killed off several useful weeks at the end of the year.

I am of two minds as to standardized tests. I don't like how the emphasis seems to be on the school instead of the kid. I don't like that so much time is spent teaching the test.

On the other hand, I found out how sucky R.S. McLaughlin Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Oshawa was when I got to university. The other schools in Oshawa were at least a third of a year ahead of me in calculus. I had horrible grades (partially because my ADD kicked in big time). It was only when I talked to others from Oshawa that I realized how much we missed. Standardized tests would have helped even the playing field.

Logan says he's doing okay. We won't find out for a few weeks. He seems to have calmed down, though; apparently it's not as scary as it was a week ago.

No comments: