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Even The Kids Have NECAP Fever

If these tests are about creating better schools for our kids, I don’t see why individual test scores are relevant. But if they are, please leave the children out of it.

My nine-year-old daughter answered the phone while I was cooking dinner Tuesday night.  When she hung up, she shrieked with delight, exclaiming, "Guess what mommy, I have the best news, tomorrow they are sending my NECAP scores in a sealed envelope."

Gosh, given her exuberance, I thought it was the ghost of Walt Disney calling to offer her and all her friends an all-expense-paid trip to Disney World.

Where was all this excitement coming from regarding NECAP scores?  I did everything I could to down-play this test when she was taking it last fall.

Perhaps the “sealed envelope” and the “special” robo-phone call from Super-someone provide a clue. I’m sure my daughter does not know what a superintendent of schools is. My question for the East Greenwich School Department is, why “seal” it when the cat is already out of the bag? If it is really parental information, mail it to my house and skip the middle man (or child in this case).

As a parent, I do not want my young child exposed to these test scores.  It is my parental opinion that it is inappropriate for so much emphasis to be put on a test, but I put up with it.  I have no idea if my daughter will score off-the charts, or well-below average.  Either way, I rather her not judge herself or compare herself to others based on this test.

My husband and I are not going to open the envelope until the dust settles.  We also told our daughter that we are going to use the next few days to decide whether it is appropriate for us to share the test scores with her. 

Because of this I am now officially “the worst mother in the world.”  This is a title I usually covet, but this time I’m a little annoyed to be put in this position.  I wish this wasn’t such a big deal.  My daughter shouldn’t view these scores as her business.  
So, please, Mr. Superintendent, next time leave my children out of this. 

If this information is important enough to warrant a “sealed” envelope, please send it to me directly.  I’m happy to pay for the stamp.  If a phone call is really necessary, please call when my children are not going to answer the phone. 

If these tests are about creating better schools for our kids, I don’t see why individual test scores are relevant.  But if they are, please leave the children out of it.

- Jill Stange

Heather Larkin March 03, 2011 at 11:11 AM
As much as you (and I and others) could give a rat's behind what our kids' NECAP scores are, there are plenty who REALLY care! Go to Report Night and watch parents drink in the Power Point and all it's graphs. Deciphering what it all MEANS. Asking questions. Wait, don't go to Report Night, your head may fall off. And you're right about the sealed envelopes- our "proficient" babes here in EG all managed to open them!
Jill Stange March 03, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Maybe the solution is to keep the scores at the school and if parents are interested, they can go and see them. Otherwise, we could assume our child is proficient or better if we don't hear otherwise. Also, I appoligize to Mr. Mecurio. I assumed that the robo-message was from him, but I've been told it was not.
Mutato March 03, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Well, we DO share the results with our children. They should be proud of their scores and aware that you need to work hard on getting good results. Though, my daughter quietly said later, as I tucked her in bed, that she didn't really try too hard on the tests. So they ARE aware that it's not part of their REAL report card! They figure it out.
Bill Daly March 03, 2011 at 02:36 PM
With all the hoopla about NECAP testing scores, I sometimes wonder how my kids (they're now parents of school age kids) managed to achieve in school and progress to successful careers without all the high stakes testing so prevalent today. They all went through EG schools where great teachers and administrators prepared them for challenging careers. Hard work and extra effort throughout the entire school year, not just a day or two of testing, paid off with retained knowledge, good marks and grades. When our kids graduate and enter the world of work, they will not be given a NECAP test to determine whether they've earned an increase in pay or a promotion. The bottom line will be how they perform everyday and the results they produce. Let's let our teachers do their good work in the classroom teaching to the curriculum and making sure the kids learn instead of worrying about preparing kids for the test. Prior generations including today's parents have done just fine without the stress and overemphasis on test scores.
Jill Stange March 03, 2011 at 03:28 PM
Exactly, it should be a parent’s decision; that is your parental right. I did end up showing my daughter her scores, but only after a discussion about how no test could measure how smart and competent she is and that a test result is not as worthy of pride as a job well-done, which she does every day at school. I told her I was proud of her giving her best effort on the test and that was enough for me. I wanted to keep it low-key, but the way the results were distributed kept me from my parental right to do so.
Suzanne Mercurio March 03, 2011 at 04:35 PM
My daughter has been in EG schools since 3rd grade (she's in 7th grade now) and although I truly like the school system and the teachers, I strongly resent the emphasis put on these NECAP scores. My daughter was upset when I told her that her scores would be coming home. I had a conversation with her ahead of time that NO test could measure how smart she is. My daughter scored partially proficient in each area and she has been on the honor roll every quarter since starting Cole in the fall and she scores partially proficient? How do you explain that? Has anyone at the school department even considered that there are children out there that simply do not test well? My daughter is one of them. She told me she had a stomach ache when she read (yes, she was able to open the "sealed" envelope) her scores. I stressed to her that her grades and honor roll distinction were FAR more important than her NECAP scores. I agree with another poster that mentioned that hard work throughout the entire school YEAR pays off ...not just one or two days of testing. For some students the mention of NECAP testing puts the fear of God in them. As a parent I believe that the parents should be able to decide whether they want their children tested or not, ( I don't care what the State of RI says). If that is not an option then keep the results at school - don't send them home!! We all want our children to excel & to enjoy school and I see that slipping away far too soon and that is a sad.
EG Mom March 03, 2011 at 04:50 PM
It's a sign of the times. In a world where teachers are stressed about pink slips and lay off and the talk is all "performance measures" to satisfy parents what is a school to do? My daughter was excited also but I'm glad she was so excited. That made me beleive her teacher is doing a fantastic job setting her up for standardized testing. It is better that as a 3rd grader she knows this is part of school and that if she choses a professional career she will face SAT, ACT etc. Most professionals need to take an exam in order to get into a school of choice and once graduated need to take an exam to show proficency. It's up to parents to make their children feel special no matter what their scores.
Jill Stange March 03, 2011 at 05:07 PM
This breaks my heart. Thankfully she has great parents who put the emphasis where it belongs. Honor roll is an honor! This is exactly why I wrote this piece. The stress your daughter, and others are feeling is at best a distraction from what really matters, learning. No child who is feeling stressed is paying attention in school. No child who is feeling pumped up by a test score is focusing on learning either. It is a lose-lose.
Alan Clarke March 05, 2011 at 03:37 PM
So, Jill, what you are saying is that if she is studying for a test, she is not learning what she should be learning. That defies logic. If the test is based upon what he or she is supposed to be learning, how can she not benefit? I was an Eldredge kid 60 years ago, and the first tests I remember were spelling bees. I was good, usually finishing in the last three standing. In my life I've had professional writers call to me to spell a work for them rather than pick up a dictionary. The worst anyone in my classes at Eldredge suffered by not spelling well was they sat down sooner. Life is a series of tests. It's one long string of tests, the answers to which will determine where a child will eventually fit in the social fabric. Tests not only tell the teaching professionals where a student is on the learning curve, they also tell the student – and that gives the student a chance to fill in the gaps. If the purpose of education is to get the child from Kindergarten to Grade 12 without any challenges, then fine. You are all correct and I will shut up. If, on the other hand, the purpose is to prepare them for life, then you really should expect a few bumps in their harmony highway.
gladys_kravitz March 06, 2011 at 03:52 PM
I don't know where any of you have grown up, but as a woman in my mid 40's, I was tested every year in the NYC school system. They were known as another name, but it was standardized testing. In high schools, we were tested by the Board of Regents and then finally, with the SATs. It's not like this is something new. What is all the "hurt feelings" and "annoyance" over testing?? It is a way to gauge where we need to focus our efforts (are math scores much lower than reading? are certain grades failing more than others?). How else are we to truly know how well our teachers are teaching? If your kids did poorly on the test, perhaps it's time to deal with the problem instead of insulating your kids telling them they really are smart, they just don't test well. This is why we are producing a generation of low achieving kids. Let kids know where they stand and perhaps they will get the fire in them to do better, study harder and make parents proud - like I tried to do as a kid.
Heather Larkin March 06, 2011 at 04:09 PM
Sure, we were given standardized tests. But I don't think there was quite the same amount of adult talk about them, we simply took them. We get a LOT of communication from the schools before during and after. Teachers talk to the kids about it a lot. It's all meant to keep everyone relaxed but all the attention just spotlights the high stakes and the kids (and parents) pick up on it. I agree that testing has it's place but they should just do it, take the data and use it to see where a school needs to make improvements. My kids do well on these tests but they are always nervous and stressed when it's time to take them.
Jill Stange March 07, 2011 at 02:56 AM
To clarify, my beef is not with testing; it is with the level of attention placed on it most recently with the distribution of the NECAP scores. Children should be encouraged to make and learn from their mistakes. However, a mistake made on a test five months ago, when all they receive is a score and how their score measures up against others, is not the best learning tool. All the comparisons and attention given this score is a hindrance to learning. All the "hoopla sends a message to our children that learning is valued less than getting a good score. I would not describe my child's experience at Frenchtown as “the harmony highway”. Her teacher gives plenty of tests and challenges to improve against past performance. The difference is that when they take a test, the teacher sends the whole test home. My daughter usually has already corrected herself and learns where she can improve next time. Testing and assessment are important components of the learning process, but we need to be careful that they don't overtake the process at the cost of other elements like inquiry, exploration, observation, dialogue, reflection and applying what one learns to real life experiences that may not require a number-two pencil. As a side-bar, the comment that parents who are opposed to the high emphasis on test results have children who score poorly is presumptuous. I don’t want a lot of attention placed on my third-grade child’s great test score either.
SF March 22, 2011 at 02:36 AM
Have you seen this article about a Mom who opted out of standardized testing?http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/03/20/pennsylvania.school.testing/index.html?hpt=Sbin

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