My number one son is in seventh grade, and has had to take an on-line standardized test three times this year to measure his growth in learning. His September test score had him reading at a college level. His December test score had him reading at the 11th grade level. His March test score had him reading at a 9th grade level.
When I saw this, my mind reeled with thoughts… If he takes another test, will he be reading at grade level? What if this trend continues? Will he regress to the point that I have to read Dr. Seuss books to him at bedtime?
First, I called my local congressman. He always has the answer. I explained the situation and asked him what he thought. He replied, “It’s obvious; the teacher is terrible. She must not be doing her job. The test scores prove this.”
“I can’t believe it, sir,” I replied. “I have met her, seen the work she assigns, the passion in her eyes to help students become better. She can’t be the problem. Can she?”
“Constituent, she has fooled you into thinking she is doing a good job. The test scores are the proof! Your son’s learning was measured. There is no other answer. She is making your child less ready for college and career. Teachers like her are the reason we have the new evaluation system. Fifty percent of her evaluation will be based on your son and his classmates last test. Now, thanks for calling. I have to attend a fundraising dinner and discuss why evaluations based on economic growth for congressmen are not fair.”
I hung up, more confused. My daughter saw my confused look and asked me what was wrong? I told her about her brother’s scores. Of course, she came up with the answer.
“Duh, Dad. He is 13. He IS getting dumber!”
“Of course! I forgot what you were like at that age. It’s not the teacher’s fault. It is Number One Son’s fault. He needs to take responsibility and ownership for his learning. Thank you daughter!”
“No, Dad. I meant that he takes after you and Mom. Look at you. Mom tells us you got good grades in school. You even have a Master’s Degree. But, you don’t know how to fix things, can’t find your keys, and think your own jokes are funny. You get dumber every day! Plus, Mom calls orchards apple-tree farms, forest rangers bear catchers, and recently thought the air conditioner in the car was not working… then she pushed in the AC button.” Face it, you two are not rocket surgeons!”
“Funny. Real funny. Go to your room!”
After all, what else could I say? I begin to wonder if she is right. I have been forgetful lately. I forgot the wife’s birthday, Christmas, and our anniversary. I couldn’t help Number Two son with his fourth grade math homework. And, I didn’t win the NCAA March Madness tournament at work. Number One’s regression is my fault. Do I tell my wife? No way!
I decide to ask Number One. I show him the scores. I ask him if he has any idea why the scores have dropped?
He laughs. I wonder why he thinks that his getting dumber is so funny.
He explained: “Dad, the first test day was the third week of school. I was excited. I was pumped up. I tried my best to impress my teacher and make you and Mom proud.”
“Well, Number One, I am very proud of those scores. You were awesome. However, what happened for the next test?”
“It was in December, Dad. I was distracted with the thoughts of what I was going to buy you for Christmas.”
“Really? You were thinking of my gift? You are so thoughtful… Wait a minute. You didn’t get me anything!”
“Just kidding! I was thinking of all of the gifts I would be getting.”
“OK, Number One, that makes more sense. That explains test number two. What about the third test in March?”
“Oh, I didn’t do my algebra homework and needed time to do it.”
“It was an English test. I don’t understand, son.”
“As soon as I finished my test, I had free time. I could do my Algebra homework. You know me, Dad. I was the kid who would color a picture in first grade in one minute in order to go outside and play. I skip steps in Algebra because they take too much time, and I get the right answer. It’s all about efficiency, Dad. I play soccer the same way. One touch passes. No one ever out runs a pass.”
“Number One, let me see if I understand. You scored low because you rushed through the test. You had other priorities that day?”
“You know Dad, you aren’t as dumb as you look. Want to go outside and kick the soccer ball?”
“Why not, Number One. As long as I am not tested on it.”