How Can I Prepare My Kids for Standardized Testing?
- Friday, May 03, 2013
My son John did not begin reading until he was 7 years old and in the second grade. He had mastered the basic phonics skills, and testing revealed he had a high IQ. But for the life of him, he could not put the sounds together to actually form words. This wouldn’t have bothered me except for the state homeschooling law we had back in 1987. This law required me to take John to a public school he had never attended, leave him with a teacher he had never met, and take a standardized test he couldn’t read. And, if John’s scores were deemed inadequate—whatever that meant—the local school board could deny our request to homeschool John the next school year.
Out of a desperate need for help and advice, I called my good friend, Dr. Loreen Ittermann, then chairman of the Department of Elementary Education at Columbia International University. She tested John to see if I were to blame for his inability to read. (As a young, insecure homeschooling mother, I needed to know that.) After her evaluation, she assured me that John’s only problem was that I had been pushing him too much; if I would leave him alone, he would be fine.
I desperately wanted to leave him alone and let him develop at his own pace, but the stakes were too high. Dr. Ittermann, my attorney, and I all wrote letters to the school board requesting that John’s first-grade testing be postponed until the next year, to no avail.
The week of testing came. I assured John he had nothing to worry about and coached him on how to take the multiple-choice test. “Mark ‘a’ for the first question, count to five, and move on to number two. Mark ‘b’ for the second question, count to five, and move to the third question. Do this until you get to the end of each test section.”
When John asked why he was to count to five between each question, I reminded him that pausing between questions would keep others from noticing that he could not yet read. We laughed, and I assured him that Daddy and I certainly weren’t worried about his not reading yet—we knew he was such a smart boy—and God surely was not upset. Everybody John cared about was happy, so with no concern at all he marched into that public school room to take the test.
I, on the other hand, went home and sobbed, knowing what the results would be. I knew that my school district would most certainly deny my application to homeschool John the next year unless a miracle occurred. I had already been threatened with jail by the South Carolina Superintendent of Education in 1984 for our initial decision to homeschool. I dreaded dragging our family through more legal proceedings.
Then and there, on my knees and between sobs, I asked God for a miracle: “Lord, if you indeed want us to homeschool, I need your help now more than ever.” I reminded God of how He had protected the Hebrew midwives from Pharaoh’s punishment and had even blessed them because they refused to harm the male babies as they were born (Exodus 1:15-21). I prayed that in the same way, God would protect John, my husband, and me from retribution by the school district. I asked God to blind their eyes to his scores.
I’ll never forget the day the test scores arrived in the mail. I trembled as I opened the letter from the school district. I was stunned as I tried to comprehend the results. The scores were terrific! As a matter of fact, some of them were perfect. How could this be?
As I analyzed the letter, I realized the district had pulled up scores that belonged to another student named John Tyler. He was two years older than my John, bore a different middle initial, and had a similar address—not to mention fabulous test scores. The mix-up was our miracle. God had answered my prayers, protected my child, preserved my ability to homeschool for the next year, and encouraged me in a way I have not forgotten to this day.
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