The Standardized Tests Challenged Us As Parents

Today is the day! A day we’ve worked so hard to get to, a day that appeared in the distance for real around January. We’ve been working with our kids on this for a few months, talking to them, helping them, talking with others about better ways to support them. It has been an exhausting and trying process, but it is finally here.

The New York State standardized tests.

The most stupid, obnoxious and utterly useless tests I could possibly imagine. The kind of tests that makes me question what kind of people actually oversee the education departments in this state and country. Do they even care about kids?

Oh for a second there you thought I was talking about tutoring my kids for this test? Heck, no! I’ve been talking about helping my children deal with the stress of these tests on them (and their classmates and teachers). Starting around January our children started getting stressed and worried and anxious about these damn tests. In January! The test is here and it is the middle of April.

Why would our kids worry so much? Because they are extremely attuned to the feelings of the people around them and they can feel how important this test is to the principal and the teachers. They can feel and absorb the stress of their friends and classmates, some of whose parents believe these tests are difference makers and their kids must do well, must achieve.

Whatever happened to being a child? Whatever happened to teaching so our kids will learn, not teaching so they can take a test that doesn’t affect their grade?

Therein lies the really interesting part for us. My wife and I argued about this, but not the kind where the gloves came off. The kind of argument where you believe what you believe is right, but you can totally see where the other one is coming from.

We both felt that this was one of those moments in parenting where we were certain this is one of the big decisions we make. What would happen if we screw this up? How would it affect them down the road? We both could see if we didn’t do something, it could turn out badly for them, but we could also see if we did do something, it could also turn out badly. Both options left us worrying about dire and/or unintended consequences. We can’t look forward into the future to see how it plays out one way or the other, but we have to make the decision now.

Do we opt our kids out of these stupid tests or do we let them take them?

One side argued; What if we let them opt out and they believe they are quitters, not believing they can handle these types of situations in the future?

The other side responded; What if we let them take the test and the stress makes them sick, hurting them?

In response; What if taking the test gives them a sense of accomplishment, that even though this was challenging they still did it?

In return; What about the fact that they are 10 years old and shouldn’t have to deal with this level of stress yet?

Is there really a right argument here? Was one of us really wrong? I don’t think either of us believed the other was wrong, just that we were right. Fortunately, our discussions never got too heated and in the end we compromised: we told them they could decide whether to take the test or not.

Maybe we punted, on reflection. Maybe we didn’t make the tough decision, but left them to deal with the weight of all of this. I don’t know. But what I do know is that after some serious deliberation, they both decided to take the test. Maybe they took the test in part because despite telling them for the past couple of years we don’t care about this test, by giving them the option to opt out we finally proved to them we really don’t. Maybe that lifted enough weight off. I’m not sure we will ever know.

I leave for work today feeling so proud of my children, that they were doing something that was hard and challenging. I hope they walk out of this having faced their fears and realized that their fears are much scarier than school, life.

In the end, the only thing of value my kids can learn from these stupid tests is who they are and what they can do will never be evaluated by a standardized test.

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3 Responses to The Standardized Tests Challenged Us As Parents

  1. Ruth says:

    Jeremy, thank you for sharing this experience. It’s so thought-provoking for so many reasons. But i got me thinking…growing up, all of the major decisions in my life were made by my parents. So when I left home just before I turned 19, I was pretty shocked to realize that I had NO idea how to choose among options that would clearly affect me, but were in no way “black” or “white.” As it turns out, that covers just about every decision in life! You and your wife did an amazing thing for your kids. You allowed them to make an important decision and learn that they must – and can – live with the outcome. Their individual decisions will have some affect on what happens next. They clearly have a real sense that their choices affect others – better yet, they care! Yet they get to learn this and also understand that they’re loved, valued, and appreciated just the same, no matter which path they chose. They can check their own consciences and ask themselves, “Did I make the best choice given what I knew at the time? … Check!” That is absolutely the best lesson any parent can give to their child, at any age. And it’s the best thing we can do for everyone in our lives – partners, families, friends, employees, co-workers, clients, bosses, heck, the Board of Directors. Appreciating you, your wife, your kids, and for getting me thinking about this again. I’ll try to put the lessons to good use.

  2. Michelle Hamelin says:

    We have the equivalent set of tests coming up next month. Since the beginning of the school year, their teachers have been telling them that these tests, which are required by the government, are not a sign of how smart or accomplished they are. They are simply a benchmark. Except in dire circumstances, nothing comes out of these tests. In that case, the student is probably already getting special assistance. The best they can do is relax, have a good breakfast, and have some fun with it.

    So my kids know it is coming. They also know that they have learned whatever it is that they need to know. Lastly, they know that we love them no matter what the results are.

  3. Pingback: Is There Such A Thing As A Perfect Day? | Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

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