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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

I haven’t written much personally over the past year or two, mainly because the older boys are solidly in their teen years, and I’m not willing to overshare their lives. You know? Suffice to say, stuff is happening. ALL the time. I’ve thought about writing it down and then waiting several years to actually publish. And I may. Some of the conflicts have been epic. Others were just funny.

Today, however, I have a topic that is not going to violate their privacy or threaten their job-seeking abilities! It’s testing. Since they’ve been in public school, they’ve had to take some standardized tests. Here in Michigan, students do the MEAP. Also, they did something to prepare for the ACT last year. I think it was called PLAN. We’re looking ahead and see that the ACT and the SAT are also in their futures. (Do you think I can come up with any more acronyms for this paragraph?)

Having been a public school teacher myself, and having earned a degree or two in educational areas, I am familiar with the history and content of your average standardized test. They are far from perfect instruments of evaluation but in many respects they’re pretty good.

It’s important to note the difference between an “achievement” test and an “aptitude” test. An achievement test measures how much a student has learned and retained. All of the alphabet soup mentioned above comprises achievement tests. In the life of an average student, achievement tests can do a good job of telling us whether or not he/she is actually learning the content presented. Of course, there are variables like home life, parent encouragement, teacher quality, and health that can skew the results considerably. But again, we don’t have any perfect testing instruments.

An aptitude test is looking to measure what a student’s potential may be. This is a much more difficult accomplishment, which is why those tests are usually administered only by highly trained personnel like psychologists or social workers. An aptitude test can suggest a student’s IQ, for example. Again, that’s a subjective measurement. But it has come to be one way we can decide how to teach students and at what speed.

Since we homeschooled, I did not require the boys to take tests as they grew. This may or may not have been a good choice. I know it was the best we could do at the time. The older boys in particular were so sensitive about their performance. I couldn’t even do much in the way of grades, because they’d just shut down if it wasn’t a perfect score.

TechnoBoy went to public school in 8th grade and had to start testing that year. The Mercenary was still at home, but I did have him take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills when the opportunity arose. I wanted him to have at least some idea of what was facing him going forward. Then last year, both boys were in their freshman year and did more testing. A month into their tenth grade year, I haven’t heard anything about testing yet but it is surely on the calendar somewhere. I’m actually looking forward to them taking a test or two this year, because I see so much growth since last one. It’ll be nice to show them how much they’ve improved over the year.

The next few tests are a big deal: the PSAT will happen either this year or next, and then there’s the ACT. I’ve been wondering if we should have them do a psat practice test, just to get ready. Perhaps when soccer season is over we can have that conversation. It’s quite likely that the answer will be a resounding “NO” from the boys. But why not do a little practice and have a better understanding of what is ahead?

You can wish me luck with that conversation.

The younger boys are in the 6th grade now, and because I think they can handle it emotionally they will take the Iowa test this spring. It’ll be fascinating to see how they do. Their confidence levels are higher at this age than the older ones when they were 11.

Can you believe how far they’ve come since this blog began? It’s amazing, really.