Next week, our school will be giving the state standardized tests. I spent a good portion of my afternoon today covering up the calendar, the number chart, the number line, the 6 Traits of Writing poster, and anything else on the walls of my classroom that might "aid" a student in answering the questions on the standardized test. Never mind the fact that we spend a good deal of time TEACHING kids to use the resources at hand to help them figure out the answers to questions (don't know what that means? Let's look it up!). Heaven FORBID they actually see a number line on the wall and use it to count forward or backward to get the answer to a math problem! I'm wondering how long it will be before they outlaw fingers? Sorry, kid, you have to sit on your hands for the whole test. And don't even THINK about trying to count on your toes!
For a kid with diabetes (or any other medical issue, really) the standardized test presents a whole new set of problems. My daughter has a 504 plan, which is a legal document stating that she has a medical condition that can impair her ability to learn or perform daily tasks. This document sets out certain guidelines that the school must follow to help her to achieve while dealing with the medical necessities of diabetes. If she didn't take insulin, her blood sugar would skyrocket, and her ability to think would be compromised (and she'd fall into a coma and die, but that's a whole 'nuther issue). If she has a low blood sugar due to her diabetes, she can have a seizure - but even before it gets that severe, her ability to think rationally, to remember information, to write clearly is severely impacted. Both highs and lows take time to treat and return to normal blood sugar levels. BUUUUT, when you are taking a standardized test, everyone gets exactly the same amount of time, no matter what. Unless you have a 504 (or an IEP, individualized education plan, another document that spells out what special accomodations kids require).
The rub is this: in order to receive accomodations for your issue, whatever it is (diabetes, a learning disability, a broken writing hand that 's in a cast) you have to be tested in an alternate location. You can't stay with your regular teacher and your regular classmates and take the test at the same times as them, because YOU might have to go to the bathroom extra, or stop and have a juice box to bring up your blood sugar. YOU might have to use a calculator because you have an identified learning disability in math - but no one else gets to. YOU may need to have someone write your answers for you because your arm is in a cast.....and we can't have you doing that in front of all the other little test-taking-machines.
This need to be separated is understandable; teachers are under a LOT of pressure with these tests to make sure that every little quirk of the rules is followed, and having one person using a different set of rules would be hard. But the stress it causes to the kids who are sent off to a different room, a different teacher, with different kids has an effect on their testing! My DD is now almost 12, and she would be OK going elsewhere, but it makes her angry. She was VERY unhappy last year that she had to leave her class to go to another room and take the test with the special ed. teacher who was supervising small groups of testers. I have a student, though, who is on a 504 for a specific health issue, who was VERY upset that he had to go take the test in a different room for the last round of testing. I think that it had a negative impact on him and on his test scores, because he is MUCH more capable than his scores show him to be.
Then there's the stress and anxiety that the testing causes. My DS has a condition that causes pain similar to a migraine, but it's in his abdomen. As much as we would like to think that we aren't stressing these kids out, all the emphasis that's put on these tests really messes with some of their heads. All week long, the morning announcements have been touting perfect attendance and being on time. Notes went home to parents stating the importance of a good night's sleep and healthy eating during test week. (Like it's not important the rest of the time) My son, who hasn't had any stomach problems for weeks now, has had awful stomach aches for the last 3 days and nights, every day being a little worse. We're upsetting their routines, we're changing the environment of the classroom, and we're focusing on one test to the exclusion of everything else for a full week. Sure, no stress there. A friend's daughter finished her testing this past week, and now feels dumb because there were things on the test that haven't been covered in class yet (which makes sense, since there are still two more months of school to go). So the test that is supposed to show how smart she is makes her feel stupid?
And since breakfast IS the most important meal of the day, each and every child will receive a FREE breakfast in the classroom next week! I love having cereal crumbs and milky, juicy spills all over the desks. :) The best part is what is IN the breakfasts......it's a lovely little box with a bowl of cereal, a box of apple juice, and a "side dish". Last year, the cereals were Rice Krispies, Kix and Cheerios. The side dishes were graham crackers or animal cookies. This year? Our cereals are Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Apple Jacks, and two of the 3 varieties come with a FROSTED POP TART in them. Add in a juice box, a carton of milk, and you have a MASSIVE sugar infusion to each and every little body before giving them a test requiring them to sit still and be silent for LONG periods of time. So now we circle back to the diabetes.......each one of those breakfast boxes has approximately 80 carbs (before milk) and 40 grams of sugar!!! It is nearly IMPOSSIBLE for a kid to consume 80 carbs and not have a blood sugar spike, no matter HOW carefully they are pre-dosed with insulin! I guess I should be glad that the boxes have reduced-sugar versions of Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops, right? Good heavens, how many carbs would it be for the non-reduced-sugar kind?
Standardized tests aren't going to go away. Diabetes isn't going to go away. Not sure, but it doesn't look like functional abdominal pain is going to go away either. I just wish there was a way to bring them together a little more gently......
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