Sunday, August 10, 2008

Aidan's first standardized test scores came in the mail yesterday. Here in California the kids have to take the STAR test every year starting in second grade. I was rather bemused to learn that the MATH part of it had the questions read aloud to the kids - the questions weren't even written in the book for them to refer to. The teacher could only read the questions twice. (Aidan's teacher's English is far from excellent - she is a native Japanese speaker - but the kids don't seem to have any trouble understanding her). Wouldn't understanding English thus become part of what they were testing for instead of just math? Doesn't this discriminate somewhat against our state's huge English Learner population? I really didn't get that at all. I've also seen some past exam questions and was not impressed at all. How hard is it to write a test for second graders that is not ambiguous? Pete and I, both college grads, debated the answers of several questions trying to decide which was "correct" from the choices. Crazy! So we got the results and I also didn't really understand some of their choices in reporting structure. (OK so this is all about me). On the front page was a score (out of 600) in both "English Language Arts" and "Mathematics" and a bar graph showing where it fell relative to their divisions "Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic, Far Below Basic". They hope to get all state students eventually in Advanced or Proficient (so they state - duh). But there is nothing that show how his score relates to all test takers - AKA a percentage score perhaps. Now we turn the sheet over. English is broken into the following test question categories "Word Analysis and Vocabulary Development, Reading Comprehension, Literary Response and Analysis, Written Conventions, Writing Strategies" Math into "Place Value Addition and Subtraction, Multiplication Division and Fractions, Algebra and Functions, Measurement and Geometry, Statistics Data Analysis and Probability". Each category has your child's # (I think perhaps this is how many correct they got in the category - but it doesn't say how many total there were in the category) and your child's % - which I assume means % of how many he got correct out of the total. He ranges from 100% to 86%. Again there isn't really anything that lets you evaluate this information compared to anyone else. Well guess that isn't quite true as they put another little graph up - showing your kid as a diamond versus a bar of where "Proficient" kids fall. All in all a bit weird. Aidan's only question was "did I make GATE [gifted and talented]?". Basically the answer is yes as essentially kids scoring at "Advanced" level in both subjects in one year get considered for GATE program (which means nothing in elementary school in our district - you supposedly get "differentiated teaching" hah hah hah...) At least at his school about 2/3rds of the kids end up GATE identified (altho according to some of the teachers some of those kids are getting the designation at the pushing of their parents and not because they really deserve it) thus the whole class is theoretically taught a bit more aimed at GATE kids. I remember loving my gifted and talented pull outs in 4th grade. I also remember that only 3 of us from my grade went (roughly 1 per class). A bit more exclusive than 2/3rd of the class? I'm not sure I learned much?? (I remember doing one that was a sewing class thing) but I did really enjoy it - we were bused to a local high school for an afternoon a week and hung out with other 4th graders and did all sorts of different things. Aidan's buddy Thomas lives south of here in Redwood City. They have a whole SCHOOL set aside for GATE kids. You test in at 2nd grade and the school starts in 3rd grade. (His parents started him in kindergarten a year before we started Aidan - our cut off here for kindergarten is December! We held Aidan). The only bummer is that there are more kids than open slots so they have a lottery - which ends up resulting in a very few GATE kids left behind at other schools with no peers. Can you imagine? I have to say that Aidan's teacher seemed much more concerned / worried about the kids performance on the test than any of the parents or kids themselves did. She did seem to do a good job in getting the kids to not be worried (not that I can ever remember worrying about a standardized test but I remember others worrying).

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