Early morning meeting with Belac's teachers.
Comments were very measured. Overall improvement in all areas. Reading score was 67 in September, 80 a few weeks ago, and now at a new high of 100. Annual goal is 115. Talked about his internal motivation in certain areas but not others, math vs. english, for example. His rigidity and his need for a better attitude in some areas. His difficulties with stamina.
Brainstormed some ideas about helping his reading. I realize I must really sit with him for 20 minutes a day and make him read. And I realize that I need to find some apps and make better use of technology in this area. He loves the math apps, surely there is something for the reading....
Mostly, though, there was talk about this NY Standardized Test coming up. 7 reading passages with questions. Aural comprehension component with questions. All things that are going to be hugely challenging for Belac and of grave concern to his teachers. The truth of the matter is, I do not care about this test. He is improving and going in the right direction and that is what matters. For the first time I said aloud, it's a shame that the teaching this year is all about this test! I think I offended at least one teacher and then had to listen to why learning to take this test was so good for Belac. I bit my tongue and listened politely.
It is ludicrous how important this test is, but I get why that is. It's a test that grades the school and teachers on how well they're doing and effects state funding. Of course we need certain benchmarks, standards and goals, but the constant teaching to the test has really gotten out of control. Frankly, we've lost sight about what education should really be all about.
Of course, Belac is the wrong kind of kid to reliably help the school ratings. You see, this test takes into account nothing about where Belac once was. I can say with confidence that Belac has probably come farther than most every kid in the entire 3rd grade of his school, based on where he began. But in the eyes of NY State, he will be a child that wasn't taught properly by his school or teachers if he doesn't get at least a 3 out of 4 on this test. Let's remember. In Kindergarten, we only dreamed of his being in a typical classroom. That he's now present enough and in the position to be expected to take a standardized test for typical students? That he's even gotten to this point is a testament to the individualized support, specialized instruction and quality teaching he has received from this school. The NY Standardized 3rd grade test, however, is not going to capture any of this. His story will be lost in the numbers.
It's stress that I see on all the teachers faces sitting around this table. It's me knowing there is nothing I can meaningfully say to help his teachers put this all into perspective. And mostly, it's pressure for Belac. The pressure to perform and practice each and every single day, fighting against his tendencies, and dutifully filling in hundreds of those little circles with his lead pencil. Like a dolphin at Sea World.