Common Core Tests Are Pointless But I Make My Kid Take Them Anyway

standardized testTomorrow my daughter will sit down with thousands of other children in New York State to take yet another standardized test. I know. I know, I could have thrown my hands up at the Common Core. I could have opted my child out of the math tests that will have no real immediate effect on her future. She will pass the third grade with them or without them.

But I didn't opt my daughter out of the standardized math tests. I didn't opt her out of the reading or, as it's called these days, English language arts tests earlier in the month, even as a flurry of Facebook requests were sent in my direction to join in on National Opt Out Day.

I did something else entirely. I told my daughter the tests don't matter. I don't care if she passes them or not.


Educators, I'm sorry. That may have made you gasp. I should back up just a little bit.

I didn't tell my daughter to fail the Common Core tests. I didn't tell her to flake off or to write down the wrong answers on purpose. If she were in high school, I could see how telling her the tests don't matter might be perceived that way. I'll cop to having flunked a certain standardized test when I was a junior or senior in high school. The administrators of our school made the mistake of telling us that they'd cooped us up in a room as guinea pigs to take a test that -- in their words -- wouldn't affect a single thing. We were obnoxious teens. We took them at their word.

But my daughter is 8. She still takes school pretty seriously.

Too seriously.

In the weeks leading up to the ELA test earlier this month, she was a bundle of nerves. She wasn't sleeping. She was biting her cuticles. And nightly she would tell my husband and me that she was worried about the "big test."

She shouldn't be. She's a smart kid who gets good grades. And despite the studies that have found standardized tests are built to favor boys' learning styles over girls', on most assessment tests up to this point (this is our first year with Common Core), she's performed at or above grade level.

But her school has been beating the drum of "these tests matter" all year long, and the pressure has gotten to her. She was worried, she told us, about letting her teacher and her school down.

And here I thought carrying her bookbag was a heavy load? One 8-year-old can't carry a whole school on her shoulders.

Telling her the tests don't matter was my way of lightening her load of allowing her to be just a care-free kid again.

When I told her the tests are pointless, I wasn't trying to screw the school. I was just telling my kid the truth.

If she doesn't fare well on the standardized test, it will not matter in the long run. She is one kid of many. They can't hold her back in the third grade because that's not what these tests are for. The New York State Education Department is pretty clear that it neither requires nor suggests school districts factor the Common Core assessments into kids' final grades. Nor can the state penalize her teacher or her school. She's one kid. It's one test.

So why, you may wonder, didn't I opt her out entirely? I thought about it; I did. A number of friends opted their kids out, and I respect their decisions. But in the end my husband and I decided what the Common Core tests do is give our child a trial run. Eventually she will be taking standardized tests that do matter -- the PSAT, the ACT, the SAT.

I wish tests weren't the way they measured our kids because study after study has shown the shortcomings of using them to measure our kids in a one-size-fits-all manner. But so long as they are, I do think my kid needs to prepare for the big ones.

I just don't think she needs to develop an ulcer while doing so.

Do you let your kids take standardized tests? How do you help them handle the pressure?


Image via AlbertoG/Flickr

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