Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Test Time!

'Tis the season for Standard Achievement Tests in our house. At the end of each year I give the boys the CAT-5 (California Achievement Test, Complete Battery) for the grade they just completed. I do it for a couple of reasons, the first being that I want them to be accustomed to this style of testing as they progress through the grades, such that when they are at the age to take college admissions tests, it will not be foreign to them. Secondly, I want to know how they compare academically to the level which is determined to be the 'standard' in the US for their age/grade level.

And so, this is the week. We have completed all of the Language Arts sections, as well as Mathematics. We have only Science and Social Studies to go. Phew!

I say 'phew' because these tests, I think, are harder on me than them! Consider. All school year long, I am theirs for the asking when they need help. If they don't understand a concept, I am there. If it's a math fact that has them stumped (e.g., 8x9), I remind them to find the nearest fact that they do know (8x10) and figure it from there. If it's a grammar issue, sometimes a nonsensical, funny sentence will help him realize that what he thought to be the verb in the sentence is, in fact, the noun. If it's a matter of "Mom, my hand is soooo hot!!!" from too much writing (he thinks!), then I am there to be a cheerleader encouraging him to keep on keepin' on.

But, with the exception of the cheerleader role, Achievement Testing is a different ballgame. I make sure the boys understand each section, I set the timer, and but for a question of clarification here and there, I am to remain mute while they fill in with their #2 pencils, dozens of little circles which will ultimately indicate they're level of comprehension in Languages Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

One thing that has become very apparent this year: our two boys, who just completed 3rd and 2nd grades, are as different as night and day (as if I didn't already know that.) One boy excels at reading, writing and drawing, while the other at mathematics. This morning while the more math-o-phobic of my sons was completing his section on 'Language Expression', he flipped ahead a few pages in his book only to see pages upon pages upon pages (in his mind) of math problems. Oh horrors! Oh dread! Oh Mom!!!!!

Contrast this with my numbers kid who, upon flipping a few pages ahead in his test book and seeing his math section, looked up at me, pumped his fist, and with the eye of the tiger, gave a confident 'Yeah!!!!!!!' In a few minutes he'd be finished with the pesky Language Arts section, and he could cozy in to doing what he does best. Egging him on a bit, and simply for my own amusement, I asked him if he were up to the challenge, and he enthusiastically answered 'YES!!' with another fist pump. When I told him he could and should use scratch paper to work his problems, he insisted he could do them in his head. He did just fine, and in a fraction of the time allowed.

For my other son, however, the math section requires a bit more effort. And here's where it gets hard for Mom. I sit there, watching him do math, or his brother doing grammar, unable to offer the assistance that I usually spend all year offering them in the classroom. I far prefer that role of teacher/helper, exercising patience in reiterating a given concept for the dozenth time if need be.

Overall I think both boys are doing well. But I will be pleased indeed after tomorrow's final test session, when these test booklets are signed, sealed, and sent off for scoring. Then we will absolutely and truly be able to relax into our summer break from daily academics.

Aye, summer. 'Tis the season to be a bit (just a bit!) lazy. Phew! Please pass the lemonade!

1 comment:

Gregory Thaumaturgas said...

Those CAT's seem like yesterday (about five or so years ago), but anyway, I haaaaaatteddd looking at the pages and pages of math problems. I was grinning as I read that! I guess the main thing with those tests is just to keep the kids reading books and off video games and TV.... And the way I see it, if you don't need the latter nor the former, why keep them in the house at all.... I guess that's slightly "out of date" advice today, but still worth a thought ;-)

Funny, it's all coming back to me now.... the several sections: social sciences, biological science, geology, the paragraph sections, and all that fun fun stuff in the CATs. It's very funny to look back now and laugh though.

Anyway, guess I should be off now, I'm reading that Priestblock 12345677 or whatever the numbers are, and it's pretty nice, although I personally like 'Night' better. Hope you have a great day :)