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September 23, 2017

Oxymorons in education: Encourage your kid to do the mandatory lessons for the state test

Testing
Image from pencilsdown.org.

The following is a real email that was sent to my home. In a nutshell, my daughter is required to spend about 90 minutes a week doing online lessons to prepare her for the upcoming state assessment test.  The “test prep” is part of her grade and is in ADDITION to her regular homework.

Yeah, it kinda rubbed me the wrong way. My thoughts are in blue italics.

Parents,

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness of Mathematics (STAAR) for 8th Grade will be on April 1st, 2014. (My old school journalism training makes me cringe when I see ordinal numbers like 8th and April 1st. Please spell out first through ninth and never use ordinals as dates.)

Your children’s teachers have been hard at work delivering the curriculum for their respective grade level.  In order to help our students perform at the highest level, XYZ Middle School is teaming up with a state-funded program called Think Through Math (TTM)(That was very nice of you. Thanks for providing our kids with extra resources that can help them.)

This is an exciting and challenging online program aimed at increasing students’ mathematical understanding through unprecedented levels of differentiation, explicit instruction, meaningful practice, motivational tools, and after school access to LIVE, state-certified teachers (including Spanish speaking teachers). (Um, I don’t think I’m stupid, but what does “unprecedented levels of differentiation” mean? Oh dear God, do other programs have DEAD teachers manning the help lines?)

 Think Through Math is Web-based so that your child can access the program from any device that has a screen that is greater than 7 inches, and that is connected to the Internet, whether at school, home, or a library. (What about kids who don’t have access to computers or the Internet? Should I open my home to these kids or set up a library shuttle bus? Should we be shaming other parents who work hard to provide life essentials like food and shelter but not Internet access?)

 This program has been proved to increase math proficiency when implemented two to three times each week, or about 90 minutes per week. (Wow, it really can help! That’s excellent. But hey, my kid already has math for 300 minutes per week and spends roughly 120 minutes on regular math homework. Does that help, too?)

Students will need to pass a minimum of 2 lessons each week for the next 6 weeks beginning on Friday, February 14th,  2013. (You just said “pass.” This isn’t a nice optional resource; this is a requirement.  And by the way,  you lost  me with your unreasonable expectations about time travel back to 2013.)

Students will need a minimum of 2 lessons per week.  A daily grade will be recorded for each 3 week marking period. (Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying. Our kids will be graded for how they prepare for the state test, right? Um, haven’t they been learning this all year in the classroom?)  

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Encourage your child’s participation. The more time students engage with the program, the more they will experience success and the more they will learn. (Here’s how that conversation will go down in my house: “Honey, I know this is just extra busy work because some government officials think standardized tests truly measure how smart you are and how well your teachers are doing their jobs. Nonetheless, I offer my encouragement for this mandatory work. It’s a great resource that can really help you AND if you don’t do it, your grade will suffer. They’re also likely to fire all your teachers if you don’t do well, but no pressure.)

2. Encourage your child’s thoughtfulness. The program provides constant support and immediate feedback, especially in those areas in which students tend to struggle. (Here’s how this will go down: “Baby, the computer will instantly let you know when you screw up, but don’t worry. The computer will also give you lots of support to help you get over your feelings of inadequacy. We all know computers are the best teachers. If you really need help, you can call one of those LIVE teachers who knows nothing about your learning style, but he/she can reiterate the state-approved teaching methods that you don’t understand.)

 If you have any questions feel free to contact us, and we thank you very much for your support. (I have a question. What happened to all the district’s “we don’t teach to the test”  and “we won’t stress kids out about the test” talking points?)


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11 Comments on Oxymorons in education: Encourage your kid to do the mandatory lessons for the state test

  1. My third grader woke up the first day of school and asked to stay home. He “didn’t want to go to school because I have to take the STAAR test!” THE FIRST DAY!!!!!!!!!

    A little over emphasis? I’ll say!

  2. Test prep is so deeply ingrained in my kid’s education. He has daily class assignments in math, nightly homework, 2 Think Through Math lessons per week, weekly tests, six-weeks tests and next week, his classmates will be on lockdown as they take a pretend, 4-hour STAAR math test. My kid will be getting his teeth cleaned instead.

  3. “This program has been proved” Wouldn’t “proven’ be better used h ere? Perhaps the letter writers need extra help using English more effectively.

  4. I often wish I had the freedom to respond to some of the ridiculousness that we receive from our district. I enjoyed and appreciate your response. Thank you for speaking out for those of us who can not! Some people have no idea what is going on in education today. It’s a sin what is being done to our children. Also, as a teacher, I am often criticized for not enough differentiation only to then have to administer a standardized test!

    • Doreen,

      I wish teachers had the freedom to be candid with parents. We deeply respect your opinions and experience, but your hands are tied and your lips are sewn shut with this mess. I fear this is causing a credibility and trust issue between parents and teachers. 🙁

  5. I especially appreciate the ad that followed: 250 Million Infected in US-pictured is a man with bloating, mouth ulcers, itchy skin & (my favorite) a picture of him on the toilet with constipation or diarrhea. Priceless! & pretty much sums up the whole situation!

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  1. Texas officials upset over low STAAR scores; won't admit problems with the test and curriculum. - Roadkill Goldfish

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