If you have a child in grade 3-8, you know about the End-of Grade Tests (EOGs). Unfortunately, the tests have become a driving force in the education of our children, rather than simply a way to measure student progress. There will be some changes coming soon that, thanks to a waiver that the U.S. Department of Education has granted to North Carolina, should end the one-size-fits-all performance standard, and allow schools to judge the effectiveness of their instruction by the amount of growth that each student makes from one year to the next. More on that at another time.
Right now, we have teachers whose job performance rating and chance for bonus pay is being largely determined by how well their students perform on the EOGs. Students have been practicing for the tests all year, with intense reviews as the test dates near. They feel the pressure to do well on the tests, or else. For many students with disabilities, the EOGs offer just another opportunity for them to show that their academic skills are not up to the level of other children their age. This has got to feel pretty miserable!
We can’t change the world, at least not all in one day. As parents though, we can help our children come through this process with less stress and minimal damage to their self-esteem.
For starters, make sure that you tell your child that you love them for who they are, not for what they can and cannot do. Make sure that your actions back this up. Throughout the school year, praise their effort, motivation, and determination while acknowledging–but not focusing on–the grades that they receive. This can be part of a lesson in self-determination that your child will learn over time. They are only responsible for things that they have control over, and how someone else thinks is not something that they have control over. The flip side of this is that they will be held responsible for things that they do have control over, such as the amount of effort that they do or do not put forth.
Continue to do all of the usual test day preparation things, such as making sure that your child gets a good night’s sleep and has a good breakfast. Encourage them to try their best and to use any of the test accommodations that they may have on their IEP or 504 Plan. When they come home don’t talk about the tests unless they bring it up (other than maybe to check to make sure that the accommodations were provided). Cramming for the EOGs is generally not helpful, so let your child do other things that they enjoy to keep them from worrying too much about the next day’s tests (they usually don’t get much homework during the testing period) .
After the last test has been taken, celebrate the fact that it’s over and that your child did their best. Let conversations move on to other things that are going on. Let your child experience activities where they have talents or interests. Make a conscious effort to smile, hug, and praise a little more often. Allow life to return to normal.
Periodically, remind your child that all anyone can ever do, is the best that they can. And, as the most important person in your child’s life, that has got to be good enough for you!