Kaitlyn has one successful week of first grade under her belt. With the exception of a few days of rain, which kept her off the playground, Kaitlyn had a great week. She is off to a good start for sure.
We got a nice email from her teacher on the first day, and I think Amber and I were both hopeful that Kaitlyn would build on what her teacher said about her and have a great year. Judging by her first weekly progress report, she is well on her way!
Friday, we got our first weekly newsletter from Kaitlyn’s teacher. It basically outlined the first week and what the class goals are for the year. Amber and I each chuckled when we read the following, regarding the expectation for where the class is as far as reading is concerned:
Our reading program in first grade is called Imagine It!. We will start off the year reviewing the sounds and quickly move into blending words. Your child will bring home books from the program throughout the year. These books are to be kept at home for your child to practice reading. They will get progressively more difficult as the year goes on. You should find 2 of these books in your child’s folder today.
Kaitlyn loves to read, and she should not have much of an issue in meeting the standard for the class. She is also supposed to read at least 20 minutes per night, and should be able to accomplish that without much trouble. If her ITBS scores are any indication, Kaitlyn is most likely ahead of most of her classmates in reading.
In math, there are also expectations that we feel Kaitlyn has already exceeded:
In Math, we will be covering many concepts including addition, subtraction, and measurement to name a few.
Thanks to her math app on the iPad, she is already pretty good at both addition and subtraction. When we moved, Kaitlyn was even working on her measuring skills. Again, her ITBS scores have established a nice foundation of what her teacher can expect out of her, and what we can expect out of her as well.
Kaitlyn just really loves going to school. She has a love of learning that Amber and I realize we have a duty to cultivate and allow to grow even stronger. We constantly encourage her to learn every chance she can, and she does exactly that. As much as she loves school, I know that she wants today to go by fast. This evening, we are going to see the newest addition to the Sprague family, and Kaitlyn is very excited. Last night, she said that she could not wait to give little Lucy a “good afternoon tickle,” and to teach her so many things. She also said that Lucy is going to be her best girl friend and she wants to do everything with her. I would classify that approach as also “off to a good start,” because for the entire time we have known them, Kaitlyn has been the little girl who the Sprague boys paid constant attention to; now, she will have to share, and she seems perfectly ok about it.
Everyone who reads this knows that I have been waiting a long time for the results of Kaitlyn’s Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) that she took in April (here, here, here, and here). You might also remember that I am not a big fan of this type of testing, or the FCAT, and only subject Kaitlyn to them because it is required that she take them. And since today was her last day of school, included with her report card were the results of her tests.
If you thought that I was beaming with pride about her final report card, just wait a minute and keep reading.
Kaitlyn’s Core Total, which describes her total achievement on the tests was an 80. That placed her in the 80th percentile nationally, meaning she scored higher than 80% of kindergarten students in the country. Wow!
Her math total was a 77. Not too shabby in my book. Kaitlyn worked a lot on her math at home during the school year, so this is a great number.
She did score below the national average (50th percentile) on vocabulary, scoring a 42. Which if you read on, makes no sense.
Her reading words, reading comprehension, reading total, and word analysis all scored at a 99. Her overall language score was a 99. In those areas, Kaitlyn scored higher than 99% of all kindergarten kids in the country.
In the explanation area, it is noted that “two areas that contribute to reading comprehension are vocabulary and listening.” Wait, vocabulary plays a vital role in reading comprehension? Then how does a 42 in vocabulary help Kaitlyn score a 99 in comprehension? It is almost like the explanation wants us to know that the test is ridiculous. Doesn’t one need a strong vocabulary to be able to read at a higher level than 99% of students in the same grade?
Kaitlyn proved herself to be an excellent student this year, and also to be a very good test taker. For a child with Asperger’s that struggles with focusing, she blew those tests out of the water.
I knew when Kaitlyn said that just before we left for school this morning that this week’s testing is starting to wear her out. Today marks day three of ITBS testing, the math section.
If Monday and Tuesday are any indication, Kaitlyn will be flat-out exhausted when she gets home from school today. Monday, she looked like she had not slept in weeks; her eyes were puffy and she just looked plain tired. Yesterday was more of the same.
But she did have a nice diversion after school yesterday. Instead of coming home, we had a “special surprise” in store for her, to help get her mind off of school. Amber took her over to the Sprague house so that she could play with her “best friends.” They were over there for a few hours of much needed play time and time for Kaitlyn to not worry about school and testing.
This morning, however, the stress was clearly back. In addition to her long day remark, she expressed herself in what I think is part of her coping mechanism. Every morning on the way to school, she has a snack in the car. Today, after she finished her snack, she was quieter than usual, and I found out that the reason why was that she was chewing on a piece of the wrapper (she did not have the entire thing in her mouth and it was intact when it went into the garbage bag). I have observed recently that when she becomes stressed or worked up or agitated, her fingers or some other object head toward her mouth. It must be a soothing thing for her.
I imagine that Kaitlyn is not the only kindergarten student having a stressful week, and that makes me question even more the point of testing kindergarten students. Five and six year old kids are too young for this type of pressure and stress.
Yesterday I wrote that Kaitlyn was nervous and anxious about this week’s ITBS testing. Despite the fact that she scored a 100% on the practice test, she is still pretty nervous.
This morning as we were waiting for drop off, she picked up the baseball that I keep in my car. She informed me that it was the shape of a sphere (she is correct). And then she proceeded to name off shapes that I do not recall learning at that age.
She knows that a rhombus is diamond-shaped. She can identify a trapezoid. I’m sure she knows what a parallelogram is.
I do not know how knowing those shapes apply to a kindergarten student. I imagine she is being taught those shapes, and all of the planets (and if they are rock-based or gaseous) because that stuff is all on the ITBS. So 5 and 6 year olds are learning things above their grade level, all in the name of testing. Not good.
One of my high school teachers (one that I proudly call a friend) commented on my entry from yesterday via my Facebook profile. He expressed his disgust at having to “teach to the test.” I commented back my agreement, along with my thoughts on why he was effective…he made learning fun. He had flexibility in his classroom, and was allowed to TEACH. I remember really enjoying his class…it was pre-calculus. I also remember him speaking fondly of a teacher that I had and that he also had. I wonder if students these days will look back and fondly recall teachers that impacted their lives. Or will they only recall the standardized tests?
It’s a little much to put this type of pressure on kindergarten students, but starting tomorrow, Kaitlyn will be taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). It is a test designed to measure where she is in several different subject areas. With the third, fourth, and fifth grade students having been under the stress of FCAT since last Monday, it’s time for the kindergarten, first, and second graders to feel the heat.
The test measures progress in reading, math, and language, and offers comparative scores to students across the country in the same representative group, with 50 being the national average. Kaitlyn brought home a practice test she completed in school in the reading section, and she scored a 100%. She had to identify the action being described in the picture for each question.
Kaitlyn has been feeling the pressure of the coming week since Friday. Her teacher had given the class specific instructions that included getting plenty of rest before the test, and Kaitlyn took that to mean early to bed beginning Friday. As soon as her regular bed time rolled around, she demanded to go to bed. We did our best to convince her it was ok to stay up a little later, but in the end she had gotten so worked up about getting her rest that she went to bed quite early. Both Friday and Saturday nights did not prove to be especially restful for her; I heard her tossing and turning a few times throughout the night, and she was talking in her sleep more than usual.
She has been nervous about the test today as well. As we were talking to my parents on Skype, she was worried that she was going to get a 0% on the test. I told her that she just needs to follow the instructions, take her time, and do her best, and that is all we ask of her. I hope she is able to relax and do her best this week. I don’t want her to be so concerned about doing spectacular on the test that she does not do well at all. And that is a big part of the reason I am not a fan of standardized tests. There is a ton of pressure on the test-taker that performance is bound to suffer. It did for me when I took the SAT.
I also wonder if these tests are not the best for students on the autism spectrum like Kaitlyn. Her teacher has remarked to us numerous times how smart and ahead of the class Kaitlyn is, but also shared her concerns with tasks that don’t challenge her or keep her attention. I imagine that would be true for a lot of children with Asperger’s or other autism spectrum disorders. And then there is the fact that her entire school-day routine will be changing to accommodate testing. The built-in breaks and down time have really been beneficial to Kaitlyn this year.
I can’t wait to see how Kaitlyn does on the tests this week. We won’t get her scores, however, until we get her last report card. As long as she does her best, that is all Amber and I can ask for. This week’s testing will give us a baseline to go off of and areas that she may need to improve in.