Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Activism, PSSA, and what is best for my child.

I never gave standardized testing much thought until Noah started school, and then it wasn't until this time last year when I read an article about a father opting his child out of the PSSA's (Pennsylvania's assessment) that I realized I should be thinking about it.

I never had any reason to consider it I guess. I was one of the kids in school that rocked standardized tests. They didn't freak me out. I didn't get nervous about them. And I knew I would do well.

(Maybe I should clarify that I mean academic standardized tests. Those physical fitness tests we had in gym did stress me out. I was not athletic, I was not coordinated, and there have been very few times in my life that I would say I was even close to fit. And I hated that there was something that I was not good at.)

Of course I had heard about No Child Left Behind, and was familiar with the arguments for and against it. It never sounded like a very good solution to me, but you know, it didn't really impact me, so why worry about it.

And then Noah started school, and he started struggling, and three years and change later we are in third grade and the PSSA's are just weeks away.

(Now here is where I let you in on a little secret. If you've read me for any length of time or follow me on Facebook, maybe you know this, but if not, you should know I'm a flaming somewhat liberal, and I've taken a stand a few times in the past when I thought the sheeple were not thinking for themselves.)

I don't expect Noah to do well on the PSSA's. He struggles academically, especially with reading and writing. Some days he gets it, some days he doesn't. That's typical with kids with FASD. I can't imagine him sitting still for the number of hours involved in taking such a test, and I can't imagine him having the organizational skills to complete such a test. He can't even fill out a worksheet that has too many problems on it because visual tracking is so difficult for him.

What I don't know is if taking a test like this is going to upset him. He knows he doesn't read or write as well as his peers. In fact, he just mentioned that to me this afternoon as we were doing homework. (It kills me when he has these moments of insight.) At a minimum I think it is going to be a frustrating and boring week for him, and he will probably act out more than usual. Worst case? He starts to hate school? Starts to think he is stupid? Gets in trouble because his behavior is so poor?

Not to mention that none of this is going to accurately represent what he really can do.

So add all of this to my already activist nature that yearns to make a statement when a statement can and should be made, and you have a confudled mommy. Because I don't want to use my child as my vehicle. But, it might be the best thing for Noah not having him take the test.

But, maybe having him take the test and fail would also make a statement? It certainly won't look good for the school if it lowers their "grade." And maybe that is just as important of a statement to make.

Ugh.  See my dilemma?

So, trying to make sure I'm making the right decision for Noah based on his needs, and not mine (or what I think will irritate my biggest fan his principal the most), I emailed Noah's psychiatrist to ask her what she thought was best for Noah. I was very honest with her about why I was struggling with this decision. She didn't email me back, but we saw her for an appointment yesterday and I asked her.

I told her why I was concerned. She said it might be useful information to see how he does do in that environment. She seemed surprised when I said (carefully, so Noah would not hear or understand) that I did not expect him to do well.

Her response was to not waste my energy. I said no, that is not a factor in this. It would not take any energy to opt him out, it would only take a letter because Pennsylvania lets you opt out for religious regions.

She looked at me sceptically and asked what my religious reasons would be. I said cruelty, but it really doesn't matter what reason I use or what religion (including Humanism or Aetheism) because the school can't refuse.

I'm not sure if she gets her back up because it bothers her I don't believe in god, or that I just irritate her because I question so much, but she continued to say that it wasn't worth expending my energy on. She even said I would have plenty to fight for when Noah was in high school.

Really? Don't do anything now because I'm going to have to fight for things five or six years from now? Just sit back and save up all that advocating? Because helping him now won't pay off in the future?

I so don't get her sometimes.

I took a breath and I looked at her, and I said "you really don't understand me at all, do you."

She told me that parents are usually relieved to be told they don't have to do more.

Well, I can't speak for other parents, but I am not going to NOT do something for my child because it takes some effort? I just don't understand that.

Not to mention that it energizes me when I know I'm doing the right thing, especially if I have to work for it.

I'm not asking for permission to let something slide, I'm asking her opinion of what is best for Noah.

We had a few tense minutes, but we brought it back.

I tried to clarify that my desire was to do what was right for Noah, and if it took effort on my part that was fine with me. But, she brought up an interesting point when she said it would be good information to know how he handles it. I hadn't thought of that, and I think she is correct.

So, Noah will take the PSSA in March, and we'll see how it goes. I think that makes sense and is what is best for him this year. Next year, we'll reevaluate.

However, if you want to know more about how to opt your child out you can go here. For another father's take on it you can read this.

And if hearing that schools might be cheating to get higher scores surprises you (or doesn't), read here and here.

Or if you just want to get really riled up read this article about how the tests are scored.

And then consider how much money is spent by each state to conduct these tests. And how much money the testing companies are making!

And don't worry about me losing a chance to stick up for something I believe in. I found out today that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a Resolution declaring 2012 as the "Year of the Bible."

It's freaking insanity. I can't even tell you how many shades of wrong I think it is. Now, go here, read more, and then sign.

I don't think I'll have any problems finding something to stand up for.

1 comment:

  1. What?! Maybe she needs to tell her families who prefer the no effort method of parenting that it feels oh sooo much better to be actively doing something (anything!!) to try and help your child.

    Hard decision and lots of things to consider - phew. It will be interesting to see how he takes it. On one hand it is verrrryyyy organized and on the other hand it is verrrryyyy borrrrinnggg. The thought of it makes me want to act out right now.