Last night my oldest, a third grader, (who does have issues with anxiety) had quite a melt down about today's SOL* test. This was her first SOL test.
She seemed really tired and I didn't make the connection until she finally said, "Mommy, I think I'm so upset because I'm worried about the SOL test tomorrow." Head slap.
I asked her what she was worried about and she said something about it impacting her grades. This pained me both because it's not true and because I've worked really hard for four years now trying to convince her that her grades don't matter. Clearly I have not been successful. I quickly reassured her that an SOL test has nothing to do with her grades. I also pointed out that this test was a reading test, something she does for hours each day exceptionally well.
She followed that up with, "But mommy, Barack Obama sees this!"**
I lost it then and, probably too strongly, asked who told her that. A teacher did. Again, I reassured her that Barack Obama certainly doesn't see her tests. No one outside of her school sees them. I also told her that if she got every question wrong that would be just fine. (I'm sure not everyone agrees with me here but I firmly believe this.)
At that moment I was so angry that any teacher would say this to third graders. However, when I calmed down my anger shifted. I recognize that teachers feel immense pressure about these tests and they want the kids to take them seriously. Now I'm immensely pissed that we are functioning in an environment in which teachers and students have to cope with so much stress.
A friend (and third grade teacher) responded to my frustration in words that say exactly how I feel.
@jenorr After today, I am convinced that state testing in its current form is state-sponsored violence...not being sarcastic!=(
— Dahlia Constantine (@dahlia_constant) May 17, 2012
It feels like abuse, of students and teachers. It is just wrong.
*The SOLs are the Standards of Learning, our state mandated standardized tests. I'm sure that acronym doesn't mean anything.
**I do recognize that my source is an eight-year-old. It is possible that this was misunderstood.