Sometimes I surprise myself. I'm not a big proponent of the standardized tests that are now required in order to graduate from high school in Massachusetts. I don't think that the test is a good one, nor do I think that the pressure to teach to the test is a great idea for curriculum. Lastly, I think it's horribly unfair to require every student to pass the test, regardless of special needs. But that's neither here nor there. They're required by law, the kids have to take them, and they have to pass them in order to get their high school diploma.
Recently, Massachusetts has added a new science portion to the test. Last week, when the MCAS results were released, the news was bad. A large percentage of the kids taking the science portion of the test, which won't be required for graduation until the class of 2010, didn't pass the test. My daughter is a proud member of the class of 2010, and passing the test is necessary for her to be granted a diploma, so we all waited for the test scores to arrive with a sense of dread.
When she took the test last spring, she didn't think she did well. Her particular test was in physics, and she got a great grade in the class and I know she learned all the salient points of the class, but she was worried she didn't pass. That's a lot of pressure on a kid, knowing that she's in the first class required to pass this section of the test as well as all the other sections.
The MCAS is a well-respected test. It has consistantly been rated as the best standardized test in the nation. For the most part, it does test what the state curriculum teaches. There are some oddities on this test, like the infamous 'stem and leaf plots' which are taught in 4th grade here in MA, but are not taught in many other places, leaving kids who move into the state post 4th grade in a pickles, but that's a problem with a non-standardized curriculum, one of the worst features of the NBLB statute.
Today in the mail we got the test results. I opened them with trepedation, thinking that she'll probably have scored in the 'needs improvement' segment. Imagine my shock when I saw that not only did she pass the test, she did so with a really great score, almost in the Advanced category. She was so surprised when I told her. She honestly was sure she had failed, and it was great to hear how surprised and proud she was. And I'm proud too, damn it. I hate standardized testing, but I have to admit I was thrilled to see she had passed when so many of the other kids in her class did not.
I still don't believe in requiring a test to be passed in order to graduate from high school, but I have to admit, I'm excited for my daughter to know she passed.
Now we wait for my son's scores. He has to pass everything this year for his diploma. I'm sure he passed everything, but the dread of waiting continues.