The school my children attend, which is different from the one I work in, operates on trimesters. Today marked the day report cards from the second trimester came home. As a former classroom teacher, it seemed as though report card time was a fairly stressful time. Filling out the report cards, trying to make sure parents had a relatively clear picture of their child's progress, and still making the comments seem positive was not always a fun time of the year. When I met with parents during conferences, they were not often surprised at the report card. It was usually pretty close to what they had been seeing on daily work, tests, etc. As my children work their way through elementary school, I'm seeing things through a different lense. This year, my daughter, along with all other 3rd graders in public schools in Wisconsin, set out on her first adventure with high stakes testing. Here, it's the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE). As educators, we all have our opinions on these tests. Will our students/classes/schools do well so we have enough students Proficient and Advanced therefore meeting AYP? Are we doing enough with the students? Are we drilling them with enough test prep? The list goes on and on.

As a parent getting results for the first time, I felt different. I work in a school that probably won't meet AYP this year. There are a lot of factors, but most of those factors don't exist in the school my children attend. I didn't realize the scores were coming home today, but when I saw the score sheet, I knew things would turn out just fine. (By the way, the tests were taken in October/November). Knowing the ability of my children, I'm usually not surprised at how well they do academically, they are pretty smart kids. But to be honest, I was hoping for Advanced in both reading and math. I guess I have high expectations, which might be setting myself up for problems down the road, but I wanted her to be one of the best. Needless to say, I was slightly bummed. She missed Advanced in reading my 1 point and math by 4. I know this is probably only a question or two, but she was so close. Obviously, I'm very proud of her. She doesn't know what these results mean quite like I do, but I just wished she would have gotten one more right.

In her case, that one point or question didn't really make a difference in the results for her class, school, and district. As long as a student is Advanced or Proficient, things are all good. BUT, what if that one point would have been the different between Basic and Proficient? I've seen that on test results and I know the impact it can have - and that's a whole different story. Could a student guessing correctly on one question make a difference - absolutely! It's unfortunate, but it is what it is. Until something is changed in how schools report progress related to NCLB, we have to deal with the system as it is.

Here's the bottom line - she did good and I'm proud of how well she did. However, next year, she better be Advanced....... or else!!!

By the way, I'd love to hear any thoughts on your experiences as your children moved through the gauntlet of standardized testing. Were your experiences similar or am I just crazy?


  1. Wm Chamberlain // March 17, 2009 at 10:05 PM  

    Lots of thoughts running through my head after reading your post. As a parent of a child that scored a 33 on her ACT I can identify with the feelings of pride. As a teacher in a building that has several times not made AYP I really feel for the students at the school you work at.

    You and I both know that there are things out of our control that causes students to perform poorly on standardized tests. We also know that standardized tests don't give a good picture of a student's abilities and attitudes.

    I don't see tests scores as being an indicator of future success, instead it seems to be more of a symptom of a larger problem.

    In conclusion, it is great to be proud of your daughter. Make sure you let students at the school you work at know you are proud of them too. That will mean much more to them than their test scores.

  2. Kristin Hokanson // March 18, 2009 at 9:57 AM  

    I recently posted THIS about a local TV station who had professionals take our state assessment...successful, powerful adults who did not score proficient. Says something about the test yes?

  3. Mister Teacher // March 18, 2009 at 1:55 PM  

    There's no doubt these assessments are stress-inducing, non-authentic, and problematic!! I can understand why you would want your daughter to get commended, or excellent, or whatever the highest rating is. However, I would just say to praise her highly for making it through her first round of high-stakes testing unscathed.
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  4. Magistra M // March 22, 2009 at 8:32 AM  

    I have been talking about this same topic quite a bit lately. My daughters are still too young for the high stakes testing, but as a high school teacher heading into the next round of testing with my students I find this experience frustrating and stressful. I don't teach a subject that is tested, so that isn't what worries me. It is the time out of regular classes, the time spent (in other subjects) focusing on the tests, and the general disruption to the routine of learning. And in the end, the only benefit to the student is pass or not. There seems to be no real purpose to achieving an Advanced score - other than pride and making the school look better. But what is in it for the student?

  5. IMC Guy // March 25, 2009 at 7:17 PM  

    Thanks for the comments. Unfortunately, I think these tests are going to be around for a while and we are going to have to figure out the best way to deal with them, both as parents and educators.

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