A Child’s Choice: Grade 3 PATs

My daughter is on the verge of turning 9 and is in Grade 3 this year.  She’s a very bright kid who does very well in school and her skills are strong.  She would do very well on the PAT, of that I have no doubt.  I was adamant that she would not write her PAT tests but my husband thought she should have the choice.

“Maybe she wants to write them?” he suggested.  This gave me pause.  Although I disagree with them fundamentally, taking away her right to choose is a bigger issue with me.  So I sat down and had a conversation with her.  This is how it went.

“Hey Kate, do you know about the tests at the end of the year?”

(Eye rolling) “Yes mom, I know.  We’ve been practicing for them in class.”

“So do you want to write them?”

“Don’t I have to?”

“No, mommy could give you a note so that you don’t.”

“You can do that?”

“Yes, but do you want to try them?”

She sat and thought about this for a moment, twirling her fork around on her plate and bumping her food around.  “I think that no, I don’t want to write them.”

“Ok,” I said.  “How come?”

“They’re boring.  It’s the same questions over and over again.  What are they for anyways?”

“Well, it’s supposed to tell daddy and I what you can do well in school and what you can’t.”

“Can’t you just ask my teacher?”

Good question Kate, good question.

I didn’t tell her that PATs are actually supposed to test to see how well curriculum is being covered because with the way that the data is being used nowadays, that isn’t how people view them.  The public sees PATs as a chance to rank schools and to judge the quality of the teacher.

Why are PAT results made public?  Parents have a right to know, is the typical answer.  But do they know what that information is really telling them?  Are they using the information in a critical thinking context?  Or is it being used to fuel negativity and criticism about school and teachers?

But it’s neither here nor there.  My husband asked me to give her the choice.  She chose.

Her answer is no.

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About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
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