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Tomorrow begins STAR testing for three of my elementary school kids; my tenth-grader underwent state testing last week.  I’ll be honest: in the past, I’ve never given a lot of thought to STAR testing.  In the past, the kids spend a week doing this testing, we get their results sometime over the summer, and that’s that.

Everything pertaining to school is coming into sharper focus for me now, however.  Ever since I decided to quit just bitching about the homework status quo and try to take action, a lot more than just homework is coming under my radar.

What I’ve noticed this year with regard to the state testing is how much focus is placed on it by the schools and the district.  Numerous recorded phone messages, flyers, and emails instructing us parents to “make sure your children get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy breakfast, bring a healthy snack to school, be on time, and encourage your children to do their best on the test.”  What strikes me about this is: (a) they sure as hell don’t put this much focus on regular classroom quizzes and tests, and (b) aren’t these all things parents should be doing regardless of testing?

Also, my kids have informed me that during testing, their teachers give out gum to the students and Life Savers.  For the sugar.  To help them focus.  Wow, that’s super healthy.  They’re not allowed gum or candy at any other time in the classroom, but during state testing, it’s encouraged.

And all the preparation for the state testing!  Hours and hours of classroom time spent on practice tests (instead of actual learning).  One day last week my fifth-grader brought home as homework 96 (NINETY-SIX) practice problems for the state testing.  Today, my third-grade twins told me how they spent part of their day preparing the classroom for testing: covering up all educational things in the classroom with construction paper.  Why are the students spending their classroom time doing that?

My third-grade twins also brought home practice tests today that neither of them had done so well on.  (They’re both in GATE; they are bright little girls.)  They told me that we were to work with them on the problems they had trouble with.  I said, “Screw that.”  Isn’t the point of state testing largely to gauge how well the teachers are teaching?  If students are having trouble, I’d say the teacher needs to work with them, not the parents.  (This, to me, is illustrative of this subtle shift I’ve seen for a while of responsibility from the school to the parents.  I send my children to school to learn because I AM NOT A TEACHER.)

After we tucked the kids in bed this evening, Annabelle, one of my third-grade twins – the spirited, mischievous, I-don’t-give-a-crap one – got out of bed and came to me and asked for tummy medicine.  She said her stomach was hurting.  I asked her why, and she said in a small voice, “I’m stressed.”  She actually used that word.  I asked her if she knew what “stressed” means, and she said, “Like a little scared, or worried.”  “Right,” I said.  “So what are you stressed about?”  Guess what she said.  “The STAR testing.  I’m worried because there’s some of it I have trouble with, like the long division.”  It really broke my heart a little to see my wild child cowed like that.  I sat down with her and told her that she could only do the best she can do, and no matter what, it will be okay, and she won’t get in trouble or anything.  She said that her teacher told the class that if they don’t do well on the test, she might have to call their parents.  “Let her call me, then.  I’ll talk to her.  I don’t want you to worry about it, though, okay?”

I’m really thinking about opting my kids out next year.