Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I have it.

Today, I was home for lunch, and we were all sitting around the table. I was opening mail and I opened a report from Son #1's school.

It was the results of some standardized writing assessment they had done, prior to the start of the school year. Weird kind of test that I've never seen before, completely subjective. Not the #2 pencil fill in the bubble kind you and I used to take when we were kids.

There is something a little wrong when you don't understand the scoring, to begin with. I have two degrees, one of them a Master's. When I finally figured it out, it wasn't good. In fact, he'd scored incredibly low, relative to his peers. In percentiles and normal distributions, we're talking "short-bus" range.

Now this is a kid who is articulate and verbal and witty and smart. His grades aren't what mine were at his age, but a solid range of As, Bs and Cs, nothing lower. Sure, he's got the attention span of a fruit fly with ADD sometimes, and he's frequently reprimanded in school for talking too much (wonder where that comes from . . . ), but never anything of this proportion.

Without hesitation, or pause, I went off. Chastised him at the table. Told him this wasn't what I expected. Started railing on how this wasn't acceptable.

I saw his shoulders drop a little, but he kept eating. The curtain of hair flopped further over his eyes, and he said nothing. Then I saw a tear trickle down one cheek.

I felt awful, and went over and apologized. Gave him a hug. Told him I only wanted the best for him, and that meant doing well in school. He nodded, swallowing hard on the bite of sandwich he had, and didn't speak. Finished his sandwich and went upstairs. I talked to him later in his room, too, and he let out his frustration a little more, but still, not much.

And then I got the guilt, again, as I drove home from grocery shopping. Do we expect to much of our kids? Do we put too much weight in standardized tests and grades? But if I don't do it, who will? How do I teach him that this is his introduction to life, where the tests aren't even standardized, and pass or fail means you have a job or you don't?

I'd love him to excel academically, like I did, but does he have to? Should I hold him to that standard, or something else? Is that standard still relevant anymore?

No one told me there'd be guilt.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife


Katitude said...

*hugs. my input on this is too much for a comment window, so we'll chat in Vegas if you want.

The short version is this: you may have to put aside your expectations until he finds his place, but kids will almost always find that place. And standardized tests are increasingly becoming irrelevant (read: bullshit) considering no one even knows where the abilities of Digital Natives lie. All anyone knows is, it's different.

genomeboy said...

I would consider what was behind the results of the test. He likely took it soon after moving south from Washington. It was at a new school, and he was maybe still adjusting to the new environment.

Based on his grades, not likely anything but an anomaly of the move.

Those tests are more for the school to assess their progress than a real indicator of student aptitude.

maybe you also felt a bit embarrassed?

Falstaff said...

If I didn't think standardized tests were BS before, the mere concept of a standardized writing assignment makes me think so even more. Stock tests are full of cultural, racial and geographical biases, and an evaluation of writing would be even worse, locking a kid into outdated criteria of grammar and sentence construction that are largely irrelevant today. I once had a teacher tell me that the only reason she didn't crucify me for my odd use of punctuation is because it was almost identical to the style of punctuation used by a Pulitzer-winning novelist, so she was going to let it go. Writing is so subjective to be almost untestable. Can he communicate in a written format? Can he spell? Does he get his point across clearly and express his ideas in a coherent fashion? Then he's front of the bus material in my book.

But I dropped out of my EDU classes when I saw what teachers get paid, so take all my shit with a lick of salt. And just chalk it up to one more thing he can talk to his therapist about in college.

Love ya, see you soon!

Drizztdj said...

After excelling in school growing up, hearing that my offspring isn't being asked to jump three grades ahead in Math was disappointing at first glance.

But then I realized that he is not me and I am not him. Once I started focusing on the uniqueness, the guilt and "expectations" vanished.

Hugs improve 110% afterwards.

KenP said...

No shock that you are rather structured in your approach. That doesn't always translate.

You mention low score and something called structured writing. Did you get a copy of what he produced? It doesn't seem that was the case.

I recall a pair of course C102 and C103 -- English Composition.

The first was from this guy who prided himself on never giving an A. You know the type. I got a B. He wanted content and I managed that. The 103 was taught by a French woman. It graded on one's participles and structure and spelling. You could write total crap as long as it was punctuated properly. I got a D.

I would suggest getting a copy of what he wrote. You might find you aren't as disappointed.

OhCaptain said...

Good comments before me pretty much sum it up. I excelled at school and at first I thought my kids should as well and then I too realized that what we want from and for our children is for them to always do THEIR best, not ours.

Each of our kids is different. Standardized tests are what they are.

See you in, OMG, a little over a week!

PrinceofHouston said...

I think the only thing as parents we should "expect" form out kids is their best effort. If we support, encourage and help them, and the end result is a "C," then that is the best they could have done, and we move on. If this was a written essay, how many people scored it? How many read it? I have a S-I-L that I don't want to ever let her read anything.
If the result of poor performance is sheer laziness, like I am having to put up with, then THAT is a whole other ball game.