So, by now your children are dealing with their own version of March Madness, also known as Standardized Testing (which will be followed, in many cases, by May Madness). You have helped them manage their test anxiety at home and school (please see my previous blog for tips and tactics).
Now there’s the issue that’s sure to raise your own anxiety—making sense of the tests your child is taking.
Progress is supposedly being measured. But, what kinds of progress? In what areas?
- How does the testing relate to your child’s mastery of skills and curriculum?
- What will the tests tell you about how well your child can actually read, understand, write, and do math?
- By the time you get the results, what can you do about material that was supposed to be learned months ago?
- If your child has an IEP, they will not be given tests at their reading level. They will take the same tests as their peers, with accommodations that may or may not help—but which will certainly make it much harder to tell what skills they’ve mastered and what levels they are performing at.
What are your options?
- You “go with the flow”, wait for test results, and try to figure out what they mean six months from now.
- You take the “opt-out” strategy that many parents in other states have begun doing, because they are upset about the amount of testing being done, the anxiety it causes their special needs children, and the fact that they don’t believe their children get anything useful from it. I have to say that professionally, I like this option. When I look at the test results for my clients, I just don’t see the benefits for children with significant learning problems. I don’t see enough information about what the child can do independently, on tasks that really show mastery of the material. In fact, mastery is not a goal for special needs children. As the kids ask, “When are we ever gonna use this stuff?” If it isn’t going to help your child in some concrete way, you might want to consider not doing it at all.
- If parents feel that their children are not prepared enough for these standardized tests, they might want to consider an independent evaluation in their child’s areas of need. You want an objective and complete evaluation that will show exactly what your child can do on his own, and at what grade level. Work with someone who will do the needed follow up, and you will be able to monitor your child’s progress and make changes to the IEP if necessary.
Remember—you are the expert on your child, but you need accurate data, in a timely manner, in order to be your child’s best advocate. You can’t help if you don’t have the necessary information.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions. Best of luck!