Friday, October 30, 2009

Part 7 Series My Experience With and Theories About Learning Styles

Part 7: Thoughts on Test Results and Testing in General

A Confession

This story would not be complete if I did not share that my son’s test results freaked me out.

I didn’t like hearing that my son was behind in some areas even though other tests had him on grade level or even above grade level. I know what I taught my son. I know the work he produced. I felt he had mastered certain concepts yet a test said he didn’t. Which should I believe?

Some things he scored terribly on (contractions) he should have scored better at since he did know all about contractions and used them in his daily speaking. I did a review of contractions. He was annoyed and said he knew it all already why were we doing this? Indeed he did all the work with perfection, showing mastery in my opinion. Well at least I could document we did the work if we were ever questioned on it.

I explained in Part 6 that I changed the way we handled reading comprehension.

I gave him some practice with test trickery such as being careful about reading through all the multiple choice answers and slowly and carefully selecting really the best answer not just the first on the list that is correct but is not the most thorough answer.

Educational Neglect?

Those test results threw me into a tailspin also because some comments were made to me about the test results are credible and used in courts to show educational neglect. This was said along with telling me the deficit areas my son had. I was told that teachers are mandatory reporters to the state. This was a bit confusing to me as this woman was a teacher in the last state she lived in and was not currently teaching while she attended graduate school for this degree. She was not yet a mandatory reporter in this state. I didn’t quite know what she was trying to say. She said that these tests hold up in court as proof of educational neglect. I was reading between the lines and not liking what I was hearing. Was she going to report me for educational neglect?

What I definitely felt was that she was disappointed to think that my son had certain gaps in his learning. I can’t say I blame her for having that opinion. But real life and the test scores were not in alignment in my opinion, so an opinion based on those tests was wrong.

I was told that my son should have known what a “short a” is when in fact our phonics curriculum (Alpha Phonics) didn’t teach the terms, it just taught the child how to read the words. I felt the fact that he could decode at an eighth grade level according to one of her tests was proof he knew phonics but the teacher said no, that one test said he did not know phonics. Can you see how this exchange was crazy-making? Which test shall we choose to believe (plus based on witnessing the boy reading aloud and properly decoding) and which test shall we choose to discard and ignore?

I was told my son didn’t know how to subtract with borrowing because he made an error and added the math problem. That is ridiculous because my son very well did know how to subtract! The test shifted back and forth from adding to subtracting and I can only assume my son got on a roll with addition and didn’t pay attention to the different operation symbol. The teacher seemed angry at the idea that my fifth grade son could not subtract. I probably would be miffed by that too if I was the teacher. I have years of math teaching with a good math curriculum, and I have his math practice work here as proof that my son did learn and could do that kind of work. I resented judgment like that from an outside person when obviously the issue was that my son just messed up the test!

You see my son’s testing with the different tests all checking the same content could be looked at in different ways. A person could look only to the high scores with praise or they could look only to the low scores and claim there was a real problem. Since I got to see the inconsistencies in how different tests could yield such different scores the idea of a stranger judging my child on a score really bothered me. This also was in light of the circumstances I mentioned (death in the family, Lyme Disease, long testing times and fatigue).

Can you imagine the negative consequences a child may have if they are given just ONE test and the results are low? Can that test be trusted? I honestly don’t know!

1 comment:

Kimmywizzie said...

So, if your son was in school and did poorly on a test would his teacher there by cited with educational neglect? I think not. Sounds to me like this test did not test mastery but they way in which it was mastered. Like the phonics thing. What difference does it make if he knows what a "short a" is if he reads on or above grade level. With the math thing, it's obvious that he just messed up. Kids do that. One test does not a good student make. :) Hang in there.