PARCC testing begins tomorrow for my boys. Well, the youngest is in first grade and doesn't take it yet but my 3rd and 5th graders are ready to go. They talk of it matter of factly, with the oldest claiming he actually likes testing days. I kind of used to be the same way, enjoying a change of pace from the usual school day. The youngest one chimes in asking "what's PARCC" but quickly turns his attention to perfecting his latest dunk on the hoop over the bathroom door. And the middle guy proudly boasts that he can now type faster than at least one other kid in his class. So there. We're good.
To quote my husband's pronouncement in our kitchen last night, "we are ready to bring the noise on PARCC!" They give him a smirk and an eye roll and it's back to Celtics playoffs and a repeating loop of "where's my glove?" from the youngest who must act out the Red Sox games in real time. As you can imagine, we flip back and forth between games in the hope of keeping everyone somewhat happy. Well, everyone except Mom who would give anything to watch just one romantic comedy on the big TV.
After my ten years working in schools and my eleven years as a Mom, I am certain of one thing: all parents appreciate knowing how their kids are doing. From that joyous moment when our first newborn's cries pierce the air, we become totally focused on the the well being of that baby and life quickly becomes a beautiful and chaotic collection of moments, memories, and measures. Sure, we vary in our capacities to handle it all (and pay for it all), but I have yet to meet a parent who did not want the best for their child.
There is no scarcity of opinion out there when it comes to measuring our kids. Whether it be weighing them in school to screen for obesity and diabetes concerns, timing their mile run to test their speed and endurance, or taking an annual math exam to assess their math skills, controversy is never too far away.
I have to wonder if we have perhaps entered a time where the empirical has almost totally been replaced by the emotional and where feelings or anecdotes have become the modern version of an objective measure. Parents want to know if their kids are happy and ensure that their self esteem is intact. Naturally as parents we want to nurture the 'whole child', and we have an innate tendency to feel uncomfortable and even combative when someone tries to label our child in any way.
Obese. Proficient. Average.
There is, however, a bit of cognitive dissonance around some of this. Parents talk freely about their children's height and weight percentiles and are very quick to label their own children early on as gifted or advanced.
If only we had a quarter for every time someone has told us, unsolicited, that their two year old is "really advanced", right?
I like knowing how my kids are doing and I appreciate all the information I can get. I would never define them by any one piece of information but it does help me as their mother make decisions about what they need (and don't need), where I can provide support, where we can stay the course and where perhaps we need to make a change. I appreciate being able to look into their eyes and know something's wrong. I like knowing if their height and weight are tracking within normal range. I appreciate when their blood work indicates that they are well or that they are ill. And I want to know if their learning is on track and if their knowledge and skills are at a level commensurate with what they'll need moving forward and on par with kids their age in neighboring states.
I guess I'm like most parents in America. Education Post conducted a poll dedicated solely to parents' views on education and like me, most parents support and appreciate testing because of the information it provides to us about our child. 65% of us want the information from the testing to be used to identify the students who need help and 54% of us want the information to help us, as parents, identify where our children may need extra help.
According to that same parent poll, we hold ourselves and our children most responsible for whether or not they are progressing in school and being armed with the necessary information sets us up to successfully fulfil that responsibility.
I don't get too caught up in which test they take. I'm just grateful to have results based on what most agree is more challenging work. We as parents will have a much more accurate sense of our children's progress as well as their areas of strength and weakness in math and ELA. Teachers will be be better equipped to support them in school and we will be working from a position of knowledge when we support them at home. Our schools will have a clear view of achievement gaps between differing groups of children and will be able to adjust accordingly to ensure that every child is getting what they need. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that this is about more than just our own kid.
I have never liked the easy A as much as the hard earned B and I definitely welcome the scores on annual assessments being lower if it means our kids are doing better and harder work.
And on that note, I'm off to figure out how to keep my 9 year old from scratching off his poison ivy covered leg during his PARCC test tomorrow. And to convince my youngest that he can't wear a pair of high tops on his field trip that are two sizes too big, no matter how "cool" they look.
See, life really is full of tests.