Monday, April 7, 2014

The insanity of standardized tests

So here’s how I really feel…standardized tests suck! That’s right, I said it!! Whether they are called ISTEP or STAAR or any other acronym, they are absolutely, positively insane. I am sure that many of you out there disagree with me, and that is perfectly fine. From the week I’ve had due to the stress of this test, my opinion is pretty much set in stone. From the number of articles I have read  and Facebook posts I have seen this week, I know I am not alone.

The STAAR testing craziness started a few weeks ago for us. Hunter had been acting differently. We were trying to figure out what has changed in his diet. We were wondering if he was staying up at night or beginning to get sick, because he just wasn’t acting the same.  He had a blank stare, his speech was slurred, his attitude was absolutely awful. Something was seriously wrong.

Then, the day before the tests began, he came home completely covered in ink. He had written all over himself. There were grids drawn all over his arms and legs. He told us he did it because he was nervous about the tests the next day! There it was, the mystery was solved!

It only takes a quick look at the new statistics that came out last week to see how much things are changing. Currently, 1 in 68 children have autism. A staggering 1 in 42 boys are being diagnosed. This means that we have an entire new generation of Einstein’s and Bill Gate's currently going through our school systems. These students don’t necessarily fit into a perfect box in the way they learn. They think about things differently. They learn differently. However, we are judging them (and their teachers) according to how well they do on a test that absolutely does not show what they actually know. We are not testing them on their brilliance, but on a made-up set of standards.

These tests cause crazy changes to their daily school schedules, when change is not good for kiddos on the spectrum. We are asking them standardized questions, when they don’t think in a standard way. We are telling them over and over the importance of doing well, which only increases their anxiety levels. We are basically telling them that societies gage of how well they are doing in school is all based on how well they do on a test that is more than difficult for them. It does not test them the way they learn.

Things have to change. Our way of thinking has to change. We are raising an entire generation that is filled with children on the spectrum, and unfortunately, those numbers are showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. We need to start teaching them the way they learn, instead of trying to make them fit into a certain “learning” box that has been created.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m sure that there are many statistics from the powers that be that show how important these tests are to the education of our children. I am just a mom who sees that my son is missing out on learning because these tests don’t meet him where he is. Unfortunately, I think that many children are in the same boat.

In my humble opinion, making changes will only benefit all children (on the spectrum and off). We are teaching in order for them to take a test, instead of teaching them the gift of loving to learn! We are stripping our kids of so much. We are teaching them that these tests mean so much in their lives, when in reality, they don’t mean anything. We are putting undo pressure on them. What happened to the importance of learning basic skills, letting each child be an individual who had their own set of talents, and allowing our teachers to do just that…teach!!!