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BLOG: Yojo Had No Mojo

9 March 2012 No Comment

BY JO WATTS; Blogger

As I mentioned in my last blog, my son is in third grade. This year, that means that he also has to take the PSSA tests. So just what are the PSSA tests?

According to the Pennsylvania department of education website (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/pennsylvania_system_of_school_assessment_%28pssa%29/8757):

“The annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) is a standards-based, criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student’s attainment of the academic standards while also determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency of the standards.  Every Pennsylvania student in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 is assessed in reading and math. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 5, 8 and 11 is assessed in writing. Every Pennsylvania student in grades 4, 8 and 11 is assessed in science.”

So that’s all well and good, but what does it mean actually? For our family, it’s meant a LOT of stress and anxiety for my son.

My son does really well in school. He reads WELL above his grade level. He finished all the Harry Potter books in less than 3 months. Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson” series were devoured in two weeks. He loves math and science. So these tests should be a piece of cake for him.

Instead, he’s agonizing over them. He’s worried that he won’t do well, that he won’t understand a question. That someone will think he’s cheating if he does do well. That he won’t be able to go to the bathroom or get a drink.

In other words, he’s a mess.

I’ve tried to calm him, to tell him that these tests are just a research tool for the school, to know what you need to learn yet. That the results aren’t going to affect his report card or anything like that. To just chill, dude!

But it’s not helping. They had an assembly at school yesterday, staring some big blue ugly creature named Yojo, to help the children understand the tests and to prepare for them. My son was not impressed.

I have to wonder if these tests are worth all the anxiety and stress. We heard earlier this year that holiday parties were shortened so the teachers would have more time to prep the students for these tests. That some school districts have strictly focused on reading and math, instead of including necessary subjects like science and social studies, just because of these tests.

Some children just do not perform well under these circumstances. If you ask my daughter a direct question, she freezes up and can’t answer, but if you observe her later and ask in a more relaxed situation, she will give you the answer then. I know when it’s her turn for these tests, that she’s not going to be a top performer, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know the information.

All in all, I understand the need to evaluate the education that our children receive in our schools, but there has got to be a better way than 5 days worth of testing. And a better way of calming their anxieties than a big blue ugly guy named Yojo. There just has to be.

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