May 23, 2012

Measurements of Student Progress

We live in Washington state. Our public school state test for grades 3-8 is called the MSP.

They say, "The MSP name conveys the goal of the test: to measure student progress. State testing should never be the sole judge of a student’s academic skills and knowledge. A student’s entire performance should always be considered."

Yet, if a child doesn't pass the MSP, they will be placed in a "Lift" class the following year. For a middle schooler, this means losing out on an elective. This is the case in our district. I do not know if it's the same in others.

If I'm giving educators the benefit of the doubt, it looks like they want to help my child do better in whichever subject they didn't pass.

If I'm being cynical, it looks more like they want my child to freaking pass the MSP already so they can get more funding or ask for raises or whatever kids passing these tests does for them.

I understand that this is public education funded by the government and is free to me (well, besides my property taxes). I promise, I try not to complain about it too much. Like all the days off school there are. Mark complains about that a lot. I get it (mostly). But when they use the results of their standardized test to penalize my child, I get a little angry.

Many kids don't fit into their standardized box. Kids have varying learning styles.

My daughter has ADD.

Last year Camryn failed the MSP by four points and had to spend all this year taking a "Literacy Lift" class. And if she failed again this year, she'll have another similar class added to her schedule in 7th grade, thus locking her out of any sort of an elective.

She really wants to be her current homeroom teacher's TA in 6th period next year.  When she came home and told me this, I felt SO PROUD of her! I was thrilled that she would want to take this kind of initiative. And proud of my (not so) little girl for choosing an elective in which she will be helping new 6th graders (and a teacher).

Camryn may have ADD, but it has no bearing on her intelligence. It may look that way at times, because she can appear flighty, spacey, even air-headed. This is because her brain moves a mile a minute. She has "ooh shiny!" syndrome. But she is not stupid.

ADD makes it difficult to concentrate. Kids with ADD are famous for not doing well on tests. It takes Cami longer to finish the MSP testing than other kids.

I don't yet know how she did this year, but she may never pass one of those tests.

It's only because the test is "standard", yet she is not.

And this means, that she may have to continue to miss out on any elective she might be interested in. The very classes that help keep kids engaged in school, and help them discover what they're good at.

My heart breaks over this because it damages her already fragile self-esteem. I really don't think it's fair.

In all honesty, I think her school wants to push the kids to pass the MSP so they look good. I don't mean the teachers specifically. I'm sure that most of my daughter's teachers care about her learning what she needs to learn, and perhaps loathe those tests as much as I do. I get that teachers are in a tough spot between what their hearts want for the kids and what the administrators are making them do.

If it weren't for this ridiculous rule they've put in place, I probably wouldn't even tell Camryn whether she passed the MSP or not, when I get the letter in September

Because I don't think it has any bearing on who she is as a student.

It's just so very frustrating.

(Before someone tells me this is one reason they homeschool, please don't. I'm not that mom. Not only do I not have the discipline to homeschool, I wouldn't be able to do a good job of giving my kids an enriching homeschool experience because I can't drive them to great extra-curricular learning places.)

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  1. When I was in high school the MSP was the WASL and one of my classes we focused on this test. Our group even went to Olympia to fight it. You are right in that the higher the kids do the more funding for the school and that is WRONG. These tests like you said are standard when not all kids are. I excelled in math but when it came to this test I struggled, they ask so much on the math part it is ridiculous. I get that they want to see how the students are doing and also how the teachers are doing but I do NOT think this is the answer. Not everyone learns the same so why in the HELL are they all tested with the same test. As you can tell I HATE this test. And then people wonder why Washington is so low on the education scale. UGH!

    1. I'm starting to wonder if I can fight this elective thing....

  2. I understand WHY the state does the testing but I wish they could come up with a different way to administer the test.

    I grew up in Ohio, where in high school, they had a four part "Proficiency" test. You had to pass all four parts before you were allowed to graduate.

    I had friends who were not allowed to walk because they could not pass.. They were told that even though they were seniors and technically graduating they had to come back the next year to take the test and PASS in order to receive their diploma.

    How messed up is that?

    Not only were they stressed about trying to pass their classes, they had added stress of trying to pass this standardized test.

    Also? I give praise to the women who have the patience to homeschool. I am not that mom either.

    1. And to have to go back to high school after they should have graduated? That's the stuff of nightmares!

  3. Well...obviously this is a tough one. She is going to have to take the SAT or ACT some day to get into college (if she wants to go), and this test is an indicator of how she will do on those. I did not do well on the SAT at all, didn't have great grades, but I still got into a few very good schools. HOWEVER, that was because I had electives like music and school newspaper and high level English classes (and outside things like piano competitions) to boost my resume. If Cami doesn't have good grades and test scores AND doesn't have a "thing", it will be hard for her to get in to school, thus making it hard to get a good job, thus holding her back from breaking any socioeconomic cycle she finds herself in. And that's the real problem. These tests, in the end, are designed (not intentionally, or perhaps) to push us forward financially in life, or hold us back. What a crock of crap. Tell her administrators that every kid needs music, art, a TA position that teaches them leadership and organization, or whatever, to give them a chance at having "a thing". Fight them on this elective rule tooth and nail. Cami's happiness depends on it.

    1. Oh Sara, thank you so much for these comments! Love you!

    2. Thanks for putting that point on it, Sara. I too believe that Cami needs the "thing" in her life. She may never do well in a test environment. As soon as she is aware of that kind of focus on her, she stumbles. When she doesn't feel the scrutiny, it is incredible what she is capable of. We have to help her find her thing and develop that. It will make all the difference in her life.

      Uncle Randy

  4. I hate the stress that is placed on kids for testing. I hated it as a teacher, too.

    I had kids who had ADD and ADHD who got special modifications for the standardized testing like separate environment, multiple test sessions(so more breaks were involved) and extended time. Is anything like that available to her?

    1. Camryn has a 504 plan, but it's pretty basic. I don't think it says anything about the MSP specifically. I need to do a little more advocating for her.