Interstellar Adventures

March 5, 2008

High Anxiety

Filed under: Elle & Zed,Mom Life — by InterstellarLass @ 1:24 pm

For those of you outside the great state of Texas, today is TAKS Day. The day when all 3rd grad students are subjected to the tortures rigors of the Reading TAKS test. Both Elle and I have been dreading this day for months.

I’ve mentioned before the differences in my two children. Like snowflakes, no two children are alike. I have one that is academically gifted, and one that struggles on a daily basis. One for whom A’s and Honors classes are the norm, and one for whom C’s are celebrated, B’s are miraculous victories and Title I and tutoring are the norm. The 100 on her science project is still on the refrigerator door, and will remain indefinitely.

Her first Practice Reading TAKS came home with a parent signature line, a requirement that she make ‘margin memos’ and a big, ugly 44 at the top of the paper. I was dumbfounded as to why Elle chose some of the answers she did. With no evidence to support 66% of her responses, I wondered if she read the questions at all. And if she did, did she not understand, give up, and hope that her stab-in-the-dark was right. We went over the questions, found the supporting evidence in the reading passages, and corrected her mistakes.

I went to the book store and found several home workbooks for her and I to do together in the evenings. Read the passages, note the paragraph numbers, read the questions, refer back to the passage, find the evidence, underline the evidence, find the answer. Lather, rinse, repeat. At least 3 nights a week we did this for the last 6 weeks.

Her last Practice Reading TAKS came home with a much sunnier prospect. An 89 was circled and WONDERFUL! was emblazoned in a slant across the upper left corner of the paper. How the teacher got to an 89 when no answers were marked wrong, I don’t know. I had to figure out the incorrect responses on my own. And even I, a lifetime reader, owner of a Bachelors degree in English, furrowed my brow and flipped from question to passage to question to passage several times before figuring out where they were going with a question.

The TAKS test in the state of Texas is a remnant of our former Govenor GWB, now President GWB, and his wreck reign over our state education system, springboarding his way to wreck reign over our national education system (among other mishaps as well). Everyone knows the term “Teaching to the test”. Texas has, for years, exemplified this in our daily, weekly, monthly, yearly cycle of this thing we call ‘education’. GWB’s Student Success Initiative and his No Child Left Behind act have left us at the mercy of this mad testing vortex in which our children are trapped. The results were so bad from the first year the TAKS was administered, they were completely discarded and the children that year were ‘exempted’ by the TEA, calling it a trial run and ignoring the deficiencies of the test. So they revised how the teach the test. And while results have improved, actual learning has sunk further into a black hole.

My daughter is not stupid. She does not have a low IQ. Her ability to grasp concepts in the real world and the daily intelligence she displays belie the fact that she has failed math for two successive 9-week grading periods, and barely passed all of her other subjects. I see the worksheets that come home (in which I find errors on a frequent basis). She does, I believe, have some kind of learning issue, and is slow in book learning. Combine that with ‘new math’, the mixed-whole/phonics reading method, being taught how to pass a single test, and teachers that can’t dare step outside of a rigid curriculum, and we get where we are today.

A bright, energetic, happy, outgoing child, reduced to tears the night before her test, worried at the outcome. And a mom, hurting on the inside for her child, who she sees trying her hardest, and still not succeeding. I’ve pushed for extra help – she’s in two kinds of reading and math tutoring, and we work at home, and still she struggles. GWB promised me that No Child would be left Behind. And yet I look at my 9-year old, barely holding on, facing possible retention if she fails And my options? Limited. Not able to afford private school, not able to home school. There are Charter Schools, themselves caught up in controversy, and the closest 20+ minutes from my house. Our school is rated Academically Acceptable, and our in-district transfer policy is not guaranteed. Rock and a hard place anyone?

This morning Elle seemed better than she was last night. She had her oatmeal, and probably a second breakfast at school courtesy of the TAKS test. She has some testing accommodations – small testing group, frequent breaks. My heart is still pounding for her. I’m sending her all the good karma I can muster. Whatever happens, I can guarantee you I won’t be leaving her behind.

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