“Open When…” Cards and Gifts

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It’s hard to believe it’s almost been a year since I put these cards and gifts together for my daughter who was beginning her freshman year at Florida State. When the packing had started and I began putting this together, I was a wreck. I’m happy to announce that I held it together at drop off (although tears were definitely shed!) and we made it through year 1; it was a success for all!

Here is what I put in the cards/packages-
-You need a distraction- a Rubics cube
-You need a taste of home- her favorite cereal from Trader Joe’s
-You need to connect with people and have fun- Cards Against Humanity
-You’re hungry- pizza gift card
-You need a pick-me-up- fuzzy slippers, nail polish, a face mask
-You need some sunshine- $20 cash
-You need a hug- Starbucks gift card (what can’t coffee fix?)
-You miss your sisters- silly sibling pics
-You need to know how much I love you- note and picture of family

I hid these in her step stool but you could easily put them in a drawer or anywhere else!

 

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“SO EXTRA” Care Packages

Nothing can take the place of your child being home with you and there is no doubt the first year of college has some rough patches for all involved. One way to make yourself happy is by continuing to do special things for your child who is away and one of those is putting together CARE PACKAGES.

My schedule for the first year was listed below with some of the things I included. For the holidays, I try to stop by the dollar store to pick up cheap, fun seasonal items. Otherwise, I find all my stuff at Target and Trader Joes! I wish I would have taken pictures of all my boxes but I just thought to do that for the last two. I typically used wrapping paper on the inside flaps of the boxes to make them look pretty. My schedule went like this-

September– All things FALL. I went a bit overboard and bought anything with the word “pumpkin” or “spice” in the description

October– Halloween Themed Items- cobwebs, paper plates and napkins, Halloween Oreos, and candy

November– Holidays. I sent a pre-lit small tree, decorations in her school’s colors, and countdown board for their door, tinsel to hang, tons of holiday snacks, and lots of gelt to share with friends 🙂 I also included a new mascara and toothbrush which I did every three months!

January– Winter. I found a great soup mug with soup inside it, warm fuzzy socks, and some Emergencee to fight off any winter colds

February– Valentines Day. Lots of  heart decorations and Valentines candy. We also sent a Sheri’s Berries gift of chocolate covered berries on actual Valentine’s Day ❤

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March– Easter. For Easter, I created an Egg Hunt in a Box for her and her roommate. I filled the eggs with candy, lip gloss, nail polish, and some cash. I also did a separate basket for her with the usual items and some special spring treats.

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April– Birthday Box. This was the first birthday I wasn’t with my first baby 😦 Yes, it was difficult and I missed her like crazy so I put my energy toward making it special for her in whatever way I could. I choose 19 pictures, one from every year, and decorated the box. Inside, I included cards, her favorite treats, a new top, and balloons filled with confetti and cash (I used a water bottle to put the confetti and cash in before blowing them up). We also had an adorable cupcake bouquet (sent by Christina’s Cakes) delivered to her that morning.

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In addition to boxes, there are many other great things to send your child to show you’re thinking about them. Here are a few ideas-

Sheri’s Berries
Edible Arrangements
Target Beauty Boxes (they come out with a new one each month)
-Advent Calendars for the holidays (Target has ones with socks and another one with makeup that’s perfect for college kids)
-Pizza from a local pizza place
Insomnia Cookies (most universities have a location close by)
Wicked Good Cupcakes
Hangry Kits from Amazon
Treats From Around the World

Finally, I have a few deliveries that are specific to Tallahassee (where my daughter goes to school- GO, NOLES!)-

Christina’s Cakes
Tallahassee Balloons
Dipped.co
Lucy and Leo’s Cupcakes
Tasty Pastry
Nothing but Bundt Cakes

I’ve already warned her not to expect quite the same degree of “extra-ness” next year although who knows if I’ll be able to help myself!

Juuling Basics- A MUST READ for anyone who has a child in middle/high school

I find myself envying my parents more and more these days when it comes to raising teenagers. Gone are the days when your child would come home and you could give them the once over- pull them close and give them a good sniff- and detect if they’ve been smoking cigarettes or pot. E- cigarettes, AKA vaping, AKA Juuling, has taken smoking to a whole new level.

The Basics (taken from E-cigarettes and vaping: Everything you need to know)

  • E-cigarettes are battery operated inhalers that consist of a rechargeable battery, a cartridge called a cartomizer and an LED that lights up at the end when you puff on the device.
  • Vaping is defined as the act of inhaling water vapor through a personal vaporizer or electronic cigarette. When users draw on the device, the battery heats the liquid, which is then atomized into an inhalable vapor.
  • Juul is a specific, very popular type of vaporizer.

So in essence when you hear about “Juuling”, you are hearing about vaping and e-cigarettes.

 

What You Need To Know

What it looks like…

 

 

 

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A Juul looks just like a USB drive and could very easily be overlooked or mistaken for something else. They also sell skin decal wraps in the most popular brands.

What it smells like…

The vapor from Juul smells super, super sweet. I’m talking toothache sweet. If your child is Juuling, you may be able to pick up the fruity scent on them. They come in flavors such as creme brulee, mango, and fruit medley. Kids are Juuling in school (bathrooms, cafeterias, even in the classrooms! because there is no scent of smoke and the vapor disappears in an instant.

Why it’s dangerous…

Kids are under the very wrong impression that juuling is not dangerous. While it’s true, e-cigarettes and Juul do not have tobacco, they do have nicotine. In fact, one juul pod has as much nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes.

Another danger is the possibility of something called popcorn lung. Diacetyl (which is found in Juul) is a buttery flavored chemical. “When inhaled, diacetyl causes bronchiolitis obliterans – more commonly referred to as “popcorn lung” – a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. While the name “popcorn lung” may not sound like a threat, it’s a serious lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” (taken from Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of Flavored E-Cigarettes)

It’s also important to note that these devices can be modified to use THC oil. A quick search on youtube and your child will know how to if he/she has the desire.

 

The most dangerous thing of all, in my opinion, is that the same kids who think cigarettes are disgusting think juuling is cool. It literally checks all the boxes- it looks “cool”, it smells good, it tastes good and it charges like all of their other devices. Boys, especially, are very into doing tricks with the vapor and even have instagram accounts set up to document it all.

What’s a parent to do?

Stay informed. Talk to your kids- A LOT. Do spot checks on their phones (when you check their phones, make sure to check their pictures and screenshots) and every now and again, give a quick look in their rooms/backpacks. Make sure they know how dangerous juuling is and that it is addictive. Good luck- we all need it!

Think your kid is Juuling? Pick up a nicotine test kit.

 

Choosing a Preschool

Just six short months ago I was spending my days and nights researching colleges for my 18 year old. Fast forward to my last three weeks visiting five nursery schools, with two more schools scheduled to visit next week. Is choosing a preschool really such a big deal? I believe so and I’ll do my best to explain why and what you should be looking for in a quality preschool program.

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Me and my now 14 year old (!) at a Mothers’ Day event at her preschool

When to Send

At two? At three? At four? Back in the day, preschool literally meant “before school” and that was typically at the age of 4. Nowadays, it can be used to describe a two’s program. So when is the right time? Research shows that there is no benefit to child attending a program before the age of three. Now for my two older children, I was working full time and it was not a choice. For many of us, it is not a choice. In that case, you should look for the highest quality program you can afford- focusing not only on the facility but also on the educational backgrounds of the caregivers.

To put it simply, most children under three are not equipped with the skills needed to interact with other children successfully and may not be ready to separate.

Of course, there are exceptions and there are children who do amazing in the twos and there will be children at three who are not ready. Every child is an individual. This is also not to say that sending your child to a twos program will hurt them; research just shows that it does not have a measurable benefit.

“There is no evidence that daycare is advantageous to children from middle-class families,” Oliver James writes in his most recent book, How Not To F*** Them Up. “If daycare is as distressing to under-threes as many researchers believe, it would not be surprising if it affected their cortisol levels: when distressed we usually secrete the hormone.”

Here are some additional articles that discuss when is the right time to send children to school.

Preschool/Nursery School/Daycare

These terms are often used interchangeably but there are subtle differences.

  • A preschool tends to focus on learning and development
  • A nursery school tends to focus on play and socialization
  • A daycare tends to focus on the care of young children

Not surprisingly, many of these places, even if they call themselves one thing or another, incorporate all of the ideals mentioned above in the day of a young child,

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Different Philosophies (most common)

Play– The focus of the day is learning through play. Any academic skills are taught through theme-based activities. The teacher serves as a facilitator of learning, not as a direct instructor.

Academic– In an academic-based preschool, the teacher is the direct instructor. Children spend the majority of the day learning letters, letter sounds, numbers, colors, shapes and handwriting.

Montessori– The Montessori method is known as a child-centered learning approach. Children are placed in mixed age classrooms and learn through working with carefully chosen materials set at their level. Teachers are specifically trained in the Montessori method.

Cooperative– Known more commonly as a “co-op”, cooperative schools may have varying philosophies but the main thing is that parents are very involved in the classroom, often working along side the teachers.

Check out this article on preschool philosophies.

What to look for (in no order) and questions you should be asking

  1. Secure facilities– How difficult was it for you to get in? Was the door locked? We’re you buzzed in? ASK– Do classroom doors lock? Do they have a policy for lockdowns and lockouts? Who can come into the classroom at any given time?
  2. Classroom setup– Look to see if materials and board (if there is one) is at a child’s eye-level. Are there bathrooms in the classroom? This is important for young kids who are still working on independent bathroom skills.
  3. Teacher backgrounds– Certification to work in a preschool varies by state. In most areas, all someone needs is a certificate earned in as little as two weeks. ASK– Do head/lead teachers have degrees in education? Are all employees CPR trained? Do all employees undergo background checks?
  4. Curriculum– There is no set curriculum a preschool must follow. There are, however, guidelines set by the state. ASK– Does the school follow the state guidelines? Are teachers responsible for creating lesson plans? Who decides what is done in the classroom on a daily basis?
Other important questions to ask-
  • How do they deal with a child who is having difficulty separating?
  • What is their potty training policy?
  • How do they handle discipline issues?
  • Is the school/classroom nut free?

Closing Thoughts

Preschool may be your child’s first time away from you on a regular basis and will be their first educational experience. This experience will shape their feelings and thoughts toward school, peers, and usually the first non-family adults they will spend time with regularly. Choose wisely!

Cyberbullying- Could Your Child be a Target? (Guest Post!)

Today’s post comes to you from Laura Pearson. Laura created Edutude – she believes that every student has great potential and aims to help as many as possible unlock it. She also strives to find unique, creative ways for parents and educators to encourage students to be challenged, motivated and excited by learning.

Parents: Say No to Cyberbullying

There are plenty of times when kids should be left on their own to figure life out for themselves. For parents of children who are being cyberbullied, now is not the time for kids to be kids.
With the increasing prevalence of technology playing critical roles in children’s lives, parents must be aware of how to help their child avoid being cyberbullied and, if they are already, how to provide solutions that will cease the torment. This is especially true for parents who have recently moved, their child being rendered the “new kid in town,” which often makes them an easy target for bullies.

Prevention: The First Goal

If possible, parents should aim to prevent any instances of cyberbullying before they arise. The Cyber Bully Hotline suggests several strategies for preventing cyberbullying. While many pertain to instances of cyberbullying that have already occurred, it’s important for parents to be proactive in monitoring their child’s use of technology.

This means consistently enforcing rules about when a child can be on their phone or computer for the use of social media. While cyberbullying can’t be completely stymied through limited usage, the message inherent to these limitations goes deeper. Considering a McAfee study, which found that 87% of students ages 11 to 15 at one school had witnessed cyberbullying, it’s clear that the problem is virtually unavoidable. This means parents must fortify their own child so that they won’t be prone to the often-crippling effects that cyberbullying can have.

Children put far more stock in the perceptions of their peers than adults. For this reason, teaching a child that their worth shouldn’t be determined by the masses but instead by their true friends and family is crucial, and reinforcement of this message is never too frequent. For children who have recently moved, the home may be the only source of familiarity available, making the fostering of positivity all the more critical.

Start at Home

First and foremost, it’s important that home is a safe zone. Particularly when moving to a new city, it’s imperative to take the time to create a stress-free environment. This allows a child to have a place where they feel comfortable and safe, especially during such a rough transition as moving to a new school.

The greatest asset a parent can have in ensuring their child suffers no true harm as the result of cyberbullying is communication. Livestrong.com notes many of the benefits for children who live in a household with strong communication. These benefits include increased self-esteem, an ability to share feelings and emotions maturely, a decrease in “acting out,” and greater listening skills. All of these benefits can help a child develop a strong sense of self and the ability to confidently combat bullies in person, decreasing the chances of being persistently picked on.

A child who personifies a strong sense of self stands a better chance of understanding that bullies are not rational and that their words are not to be assigned any value. This type of child is equipped to succeed in any environment, which is why families who move to a new town must ensure that active communication throughout the move and after relocation is consistently practiced.

If a child does experience cyberbullying, they’re more likely to speak to their parents about the issue if household communication is strong. HASA notes that good communication in the home prepares a child to withstand even greater issues. Still, parents should make it clear that the child is not on their own and that should an issue arise, parents can intervene for the better without embarrassing the child.

When Problems Arise

If a parent finds out their child has experienced a form of cyber-torment, they should first talk to the child. Asking the child to be honest, probe whether the bullying is consistent, or whether it was a one-time instance that has not recurred.

If the problem is persistent, and the bully is known, a call by one or both parents to the offending child’s parent may be the quickest way to nip the problem in the bud. If the bully’s parent is not receptive to counseling and/or disciplining the child, any evidence of cyberbullying should be documented and brought to school administrators’ attention.

As stated, bullying is nearly unavoidable. When a student is different, whether due to their appearance, mannerisms, interests, or their status as new kid on the block, they can be particularly prone to being victimized. But parents can negate the potential damage of cyberbullying by maintaining open lines of communication and an atmosphere of safety and security at home. Not only will this enable a child to shake off the malevolence of self-loathing bullies, but also to feel comfortable disclosing any persistent issues to their parents. A strong mind is a strong child, and molding that strong mind starts at home.

Preparing for the College Application Process- A Timeline

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It’s crazy to say but I’m almost done with the getting-into-college process. My daughter will be making her decision in the next few weeks. She has already been accepted to two of her top choices so we are all breathing a little easier. I wanted to take some time while everything is fresh in my head to write down everything I’ve learned over the last few years during this often confusing process. This is a general timeline that I wish I would have had a few years ago. I hope it’s helpful!

Middle School

In middle school, your child’s grades (for the most part) won’t show up on their high school transcripts but this is the time when study habits are formed and  academic tracks are set. By now you should know what type of student your child is. Spend these years closing any gaps in their education, developing independent study skills and making sure they are on the right track, whatever track that may be. In the district where I live, all students begin a language in 6th grade so in 8th grade it’s considered an advanced level high school course, all students take Algebra in 8th grade and all are given the opportunity to take Earth Science, typically a 9th grade course (we have optional self-selection). Potentially three classes in middle school will appear on students’ high school transcripts. There is no doubt that taking Earth Science in 8th grade will put them on an advanced track for high school but many students are not ready and that’s perfectly OK. The door is not shut- they can still take honors/AP science classes down the road. A note on districts that allow self-selection for advanced classes- I highly recommend choosing classes based on teacher recommendations. If you are surprised or disagree with the teacher’s recommendation, speak to the teacher to understand why they feel the way they do. They may offer an insight that you don’t have. 

High School

9th and 10th grade-

  • Encourage your child to join many clubs and participate in many sports to see which ones they like. Basically, they should try out everything, especially if they don’t have a “thing”.
  • Familiarize yourself with which core classes are offered for each year and come up with a plan, knowing that your child may deviate from these courses.
  • Encourage your child to start building their relationship with their guidance counselor. You should as well.
  • Monitor grades very closely at the beginning of the year, especially in advanced classes. Be aware of the drop dates and level change dates.
  • Consider tutoring or test prep for regent exams because these grades will be on high school transcripts.
  • Plan your child’s summers for the next three years. As it was explained to me at a college workshop, your child has three summers to use to showcase their interests and passions.
  • At the end of 10th grade, your child should apply for leadership positions in the clubs and activities they like. Anyone can join a club but not everyone will hold a position.
  • Attend all college nights your school offers. Its valuable information that you can bank away.
  • Find out how many community service hours your child needs to graduate. Encourage them to get started.

Summer before 11th grade

  • Decide which standardized test your child will be taking. Gone are the days everyone took the SATs. The ACT is just as prevalent and one test might be a better fit for your child than the other. Make sure your child takes a practice test on both, compare scores and discuss with your child which one they preferred. Note- if the school doesn’t offer a practice ACT test, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to take one at a local testing center.
  • Begin test prep. Will your child have private tutoring sessions? Join a group class? Take an online course? Decide now and begin.
  • Find out the SAT and ACT dates for the coming year. Write them down!

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11th grade-

  • The beginning of 11th grade (usually October) your child should take their first test. Register right away for the second test. Each test is scored differently so your child should plan on taking it at least twice. When registering for the tests, you have an option to send scores directly to schools. DO NOT DO THIS. Yes, it’s free and you can save a few bucks but you don’t want scores to be sent to any schools without you seeing them first.
  • Aim for finishing all standardized tests this year. 
  • With your child, begin compiling a list of potential schools. Some things to consider are in-state/out-of-state, public/private, distance from home, large/small school, city/rural, greek life, specialty programs, and graduate programs offered. After her Junior Conference (a conference with the student, parents, and guidance counselor- if your school doesn’t offer this, then I highly suggest you request one yourself) we added and subtracted a few schools from our original list. I then created a spreadsheet to organize the potential schools’ information. I made columns for average GPAs and test scores, rankings, tuition/room costs, and application deadlines. One thing that I wish I would have known is that many private schools with hefty tuition costs offer lots of merit aid. We then narrowed it down to two “safe” schools, two schools that were right at her level and two “reach” schools (we made these determinations by looking at average GPAs and test scores for admitted students). Then at the last minute, three more schools were added for various reasons, which I’m guessing is fairly common for most families.
  • Plan college visits. This is a great way to spend Spring Break trip during Junior year. Some schools do factor in demonstrated student interest in their decision so make sure to find out whether the schools your child are interested in looks favorably on visits and plan accordingly.

Summer Before Senior Year-

  • Encourage your child to complete their college application essay. Essay topics usually get released very early in the year. Check the Common App site for 2017/2018 prompts. In many schools, students work on an essay in their English class in 11th grade so your child may have an idea of what they’d like to write about. You can hire a specialty tutor to help your child with this but make sure they are guiding your child and not writing the essay for them. Admission officers say time and time again that they can tell when a student writes the essay versus an adult. High school English teachers often tutor students in this area so that may be a good place to start if you feel your child needs help.

12th Grade

  • As soon as possible, your child should apply to any schools with “rolling admissions”.
  • Aim to apply to all schools by November 1st if possible. My daughter managed to get four out of 8 done by 11/1. She is still waiting to hear back from the other four that were submitted after November 1st. Otherwise, she would have been able to make her decision by January! It’s tough waiting when many of your friends know where they will be going.
  • Your child should express interest in the college(s) they really hope to attend. They should reach out to the admission reps for their area and introduce themselves. If they have specific questions regarding programs, encourage them to email the department heads. If they can’t visit, an email requesting information shows that they are interested.
  • Celebrate the acceptances! There’s not one school your child MUST get into. There are hundreds of colleges and rest assured, your child will get in where they belong.

Thinking about college is both stressful and exciting for us parents. Knowing what lies ahead and having a solid plan in place will help you deal with the anxiety. Now I can shift my stress to her actually leaving…

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Why My Daughter Sits For The State Tests

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The opt-out movement is huge on Long Island. I’ve received numerous emails from friends and even strangers and have read countless posts on social media, all stating that we should “opt-out” our children from the standardized tests. Besides discussing it with a few close friends, I’ve chosen to remain relatively quiet because, drum roll please, I actually think our kids should take the test. Since the other side has been making such a concerted effort to convince people to opt out, I figure it was about time to speak up as to why my daughter sits for the state standardized tests.

First, my background- I am a NYS certified teacher and I also hold a professional teaching certification in Florida. I spent eight years teaching in what is considered a “high-stakes testing” state. My school was given a grade based on our test scores and we as teachers received bonuses if we were an “A” school. I have been out of the classroom for the past five years as I spend this time at home with my own kids but I remain extremely passionate and up-to-date on all things related to education (I even receive daily google alerts regarding any articles related to education) and volunteer my time in my daughters’ schools. My point here is I have sat at both sides of the table.

The hoopla about these tests is related to the new standards, the Common Core. Before the Common Core, each state came up with their own set of learning standards. For example, what a child was expected to know in the 2nd grade varied greatly from state to state. The idea was to come up with a set of uniform standards that all states would adopt. I don’t think many would argue with the rationale behind that idea. However, the issue became with the assessment of these new standards. Some states started assessing right away. Some states gave it three years, meaning they would begin teaching the new standards right away but hold off on testing for a few years. Others started the new standards in kindergarten and would assess when those kindergarteners were in 3rd grade. As you can see, this part got a bit tricky.

New York decided to assess right away. It was not a good call in my opinion but, like most things related to politics, money was involved as an incentive so our state signed up. We were told the students would not do well and they didn’t. There would be no penalty for the students, teachers, or schools for the first year but these scores would serve as a baseline to measure future growth. As a parent, I was OK with that. As long as there is not a negative consequence to my child for not performing well, I understand we have to start somewhere.

Now we are approaching year 4. There are still no consequences for students who do not perform well on the test. This is important to note because not all states are set up this way. In Florida, for example, if your child does not pass the yearly standardized test, they are in danger of being retained. Many states use these tests for promotion/retention decisions. We in NYS do not.

There seems to be three main reasons for opting out. There are people who believe these tests are harmful to their child, people who are taking a stand because they don’t believe in the actual standardized test and people who do not want teacher accountability to be tied to standardized tests. I’m not going to spend any time discussing teacher accountability because, for now, that piece has been removed from the equation in NYS.

First and foremost, if you believe that taking these tests will be detrimental to your child, by all means opt them out. If your child is suffering from a real, overarching anxiety about taking these tests, that’s a serious matter. Having said that, in eight years of teaching, I can only site one experience where a child had true test anxiety. Most kids get nervous and that’s OK~ it’s our jobs as parents and teachers to help them learn to manage their anxiety and nerves. I would also look to where the stress is coming from. Teachers should be working to create a “We’re not scared, we’re prepared!” vibe in the classroom. If you feel your teacher is putting undue stress regarding these tests onto students, pick up the phone and speak to them about it or speak to your principal. In addition, if your child is significantly below level and will not be able to read the passages or perform the equations, I can see why opting out would be a consideration. Before I continue, I want to state that I do believe strongly in a parents right to choose what they feel is best for their child. If you feel taking the test will hurt your child, opting out may be your best bet.

But lets assume your child does not suffer from any type of severe test anxiety and is not significantly below level. Next is the argument that these tests are pointless or invalid. I’ve heard many say, what is this test going to tell me that I don’t already know? The answer is a lot! Standardized tests are not new; they’ve actually been around since the mid-1800’s. I took them as a child and I’m guessing you did too. The reason why standardized tests are so important is because they are objective measures of student achievement. Yes, your child’s teacher knows them well and can offer more insight than one test can. I do not disagree with that point. However, insight can be subjective and often relative to your child’s classmates and even the community you live in. “Danielle is a great reader!” used to be an acceptable form of feedback for parents at teacher conferences. What exactly is a great reader? Is she a great reader compared to her classmates? Is she a great reader compared to other students her age? Does her teacher think “great” means the same as the teacher next door? Even in-class tests can be subjective, especially at the elementary level. Teachers often give a test back to a student and have them “look again”. Questions are often deemed “bonus questions” because the teacher may feel they are too hard. The students in the same grade but different classes often complete different assignment and may take different tests. All of this creates a subjective view of how the student is doing. A standardized test, that all students in the same grade, at all schools in the same state take, provides an objective measure of student progress. You will see how your child is doing compared to all the children in the entire state. This is valuable feedback to me as a parent, and should be to my school and teacher as well.

For example, I, as a parent, can see on last year’s mathematics test, in the sub-area of Number and Operations in Base Ten (what exactly that means is also spelled out), my child earned 15 out of the possible 18 points. The state average was 11. I feel pretty good about that! If I didn’t, I would know what area to ask her teacher for extra enforcement of skills. I would also know what to work at at home with her or, if she was significantly below average, I would look into a tutor. Do I take this as the end all, be all? No way. If the test told me she was below the state average and I did some digging and found that her teacher disagreed strongly and felt she just had a bad day, I would take that into consideration too. Regardless, I want to know where my child stands so that I can make informed, personal decisions pertaining to her education.

The school SHOULD be doing a lot with this information. Teachers should use the data to reflect on their teaching. Did a large portion of students struggle with vocabulary? Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the methodology used for teaching vocabulary in the classroom. Your child’s teacher the following year will have access to their test scores and be able to see specifically which areas they were successful in and which areas they encountered difficulty. It’s true; they will not be able to see the entire test but over 50% of the actual test is released each year. If teachers do not use the data from these tests, then yes, it is a waste of time. That would be a district/school issue that would need to be addressed.

In the end, we as parents need to do what we feel is best for our children. I only hope the decisions are based on facts and not just that the children don’t want to sit for a test. What child would? Beginning in 8th grade, Regent grades are listed on high school transcripts, as are AP exams and, of course, SAT and/or ACT scores. Tests are an integral part of education and are necessary to measure knowledge gained. I’m happy that this is sparking a dialogue about education reform and look forward to hearing other viewpoints.