The girls' school is coming up on the ISAT test, a standardized test that determines whether or not the school meets its goals for 2012-2013. I could go on and on about why I don't like the standardized test craze permeating our schools now, but I won't. There's only one reason I despise those tests right now.
It's too much stress for the kids.
I don't care how much the teachers and administrators worry about the tests. I don't care that some government agency manager is going to analyze the test. I don't care that local newspapers will report on the test scores.
I do care that our girls are really worried about the test. Tonight as we were going through our nightly routine, the brunette twin said, "Mom, if I don't do well on the ISATs, do I have to stay in third grade? Do I have to go to summer school?"
No matter how much time the school spends trying to make the test sound like fun, the kids know it's a test. The school is having an ISAT rally where every class sings a funny song. The kids have t-shirts with cute sayings on them. Each class has its own color to promote class spirit. When the girls talk about the ISAT, they do make it sound like they are having fun getting ready.
At dinner the blond twin talked about how well she did on the practice test. The brunette twin talked about how well she did in her advance math class on the practice test. They giggle when they share their "secret" class songs. They are not supposed to tell anyone about their song, but the girls have told each other every detail, of course.
They don't know why there is tension in the air, but they feel it. They know everyone is making a big deal about this standardized test, as opposed to all the other standardized tests they have taken throughout the years. Since kindergarten our girls have a standardized test every fall and spring. Schools obessively track progress via standardized tests.
Our girls know something is different about the ISAT test. They know it means a lot more than the other tests they've taken and that bothers me a lot. They are so worried about what will happen if they don't do well. I'm worried that the ISAT stress will keep them from doing their best.
Still, I know there is nothing we can do about the ISAT stress. We can talk about it, try to reduce it and spend our time focusing on other things. In the end the girls will have to learn how to manage standardized test stress. This is the first of many high-stakes standardized tests they will take during their academic careers. I might despise the stress and worry, but it's not going to go away.