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My Son’s First Standardized Test

August 4, 2011

Teacher Musings:
Today my son (a year and a half old) took his first standardized test, and he passed with flying colors.  According to this test he is advanced in both gross motor skills and cognition, and he is a bit lower (but still within an appropriate range) with regards to communication.  This test took approximately two hours and involved skill tests within the sub-domains of the larger domains.

I’m ashamed to admit that I felt a rush of pride when I heard from the testers that my son scored so well on cognition and gross motor skills.  There is no reason for me to feel proud or even surprised.  There was nothing tested today that I didn’t already know my son could do – or not do.  There are things he didn’t do in this two-hour time span that I know he is capable of, or is on the brink of being able to do.  The test didn’t tell me anything new, and the suggestions for improving his communication abilities were things that my husband and I know we should be doing, and that we have already started doing more often.

At its best, this test validated our understanding about our child.

At its worst, it reduced our child’s skills, personality and development down to a few numbers.

There is something that happens to me when I see aspects of people (be they my son or my students) represented in numbers.  When I see data, whether it is a test item analysis, a raw score or a growth percentile chart, I start to lose sight of everything else I know about that person and simply see them as the data.  For good or for ill, when I see my son’s high cognition scores I forget for a moment that he would benefit from some more patient langauge development support from me and my husband.  When I see his lower (though still normal) communication scores I forget for a moment how amazing he is when he climbs the chain ladder at the park.  When I see my students low scores (low, they are always “low”, they will always be “low” until we do something about poverty in this country) I forget for a moment the way Debra use personification to truly explain the pain that cancer dealt to her family, or the way that Wanda gobbles up young adult books and pushes herself to read outside her comfort zone when I present some new titles.  Yes, these students scored lower than the state average on the six vocabulary questions during three days of testing.  But I knew these English language learners needed vocabulary development help, which is why I flooded their lives with books.  But the gains they made quickly dissipate when I look at the data and see that we have a “vocabulary problem.”

I’m glad my son was tested today, and not just because the results were positive.  We had been concerned about his expressive language development, and we wanted to know if there was a problem we needed to intervene with now.  This test was just a small piece of the puzzle that my husband and I try to put together as we raise our child.  The reason this assessment was helpful was because it was low-stakes.  No one was going to call DSS on me and my husband if our son scored low, and everyone in the room (including the three specialized testers for one child – how is that for a concept in education) knew that this test was simply a snapshot and would not truly represent our child as a whole person.  And while I had that data-brain for a minute when I looked at the numbers, just a quickly I was out taking my son to the park and watching him climb the chain ladder and run across the big-kid bridge.  The data, the numbers, the test – the importance of all these things paled in comparison to how my son grows as a whole person, with my husband and I simply guiding him along the way.  I want to raise a good citizen, a strong independent thinker and a caring empathetic person.  And if he also happens to do well on tests, so be it.  If not, well, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Yummy Stuff:

Tonight the saga of how to use veggies from the CSA box continued.  One sad little fennel bulb was transformed into a delicious casserole with the help of some of our kitchen staples.

Fennel, Onion and Chickpea Gratin
Ingredients
1 fennel bulb
2 Vidalia onions (this turned out a bit sweet for us – regular old yellow onions should work just fine)
1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas (or one 15oz can)
1 TB olive oil

Topping:
1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (regular bread crumbs would work fine)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 TB capers, drained
2 TB olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350

2. Slice the onions into thin half-moons.  Cut the green fronds off the fennel and set them aside.  Cut just the tough bit of the fennel base off – about a 1/8 to 1/4 off – and then slice the fennel lengthwise into think (1/4 inch or less) strips.  Some of the fennel layers will hold together and some will separate – no worries either way.

3. Heat 1 TB of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat and add in the onions and fennel.  Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring once.  Then, cover and cook until everything is caramelized (about 20-30 more minutes – just stir every 10 minutes or so). 

4. While the onions and fennel are caramelizing, make the topping by mixing all the ingredients together until the bread crumbs/panko are pretty much evenly moistened.  Set aside

5. Add the chickpeas to the pan with the onions and fennel and turn up the heat.  Sautee the chickpeas for about 5 minutes, and then transfer the whole caboodle to a casserole dish (I used an 8-inch round Corningwear dish).  Spread evenly and then spread the topping on evenly.

6. Bake for 20 minutes.  Then, turn your broiler onto high and broil for 1-2 minutes, until the topping is nicely browned.  Serve it up!  I will fall apart when you spoon it out, but since a good chunk of food ends up on the floor in our house (with the toddler) presentation rarely concerns us.  This would also be excellent with some of the fennel fronds mixed into the topping but ours had been sitting around too long and were questionable.  We didn’t get our act together with a salad, but that would have been a nice addition to the meal.

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