We are nine weeks away from the end of the school year and I have never seen so many stressed out kids! As our expectations grow for them, they feel the pressure and react. My Algebra Readiness classes are doing Algebra at the most basic level. It's simple stuff, but they know these lessons are the prelude of the song they'll be singing in math next year. They await Algebra, dreading it because so many have before them, and knowing that it is a requirement for a High School diploma. Questions about their competence, their worth are in their faces: "Will I make it? Will I pass? Will I graduate from High School?" So many worries!
I am pressured also. State testing hits my school in April and every day I am encouraged to prepare my students. I used to give a Power Point presentation about the importance of test scores and how they are the one measure that will shape your high school career. I don't do that anymore. Raising my own kids, I realized that what you scored on the state tests makes no difference whatsoever. Grades matter. Work ethic matters. Perseverance matters. Resilience matters.
My daughter and I were sitting at the table at home talking about her high school friends. She told me about a guy she had grown up with who had started drinking when he was younger, a freshman in high school. I asked her what he was doing now and she said he was still in college, and still drinking. She sounded like she didn't hold much hope for his future. I asked her what was wrong with him. She said she didn't know, couldn't quite figure it out, but four years after leaving high school, he was pretty much still the same. She asked me, "What makes a kid evolve away from that negative stuff we all thought was so cool in high school?"
I don't think it's a student's scores on the state test.
Simplistic, huh? State tests have their use. I don't think students should have to take them every year and I don't think so much emphasis should be placed on them. They are a moment in time, a one-shot deal, a day in the life. Every student approaches them differently. I've seen students who seriously approach the tests and those who have made cute patterns when bubbling answers.
So this March, when your kids come home from school overwhelmed with test prep activities, take it easy on them. Make sure they know you'll love them just as much regardless of how they score. Tell them to take their time, do their best and not to worry about it. And remember, it's those other lessons learned, whose only tests are quality of life, that matter most.
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