I hate standardized tests. I hated them as a student, I hated them as a teacher, and I hate them now as a parent. They are nothing but high-pressure snapshots of students on a particular day that reveal little about a student’s ability or potential, and are virtually useless in determining the skill of either teacher or child.
This month, students at my children’s school will tackle the English/Language Arts section; later this spring they’ll take on math. I try not to make it a big deal. The teachers have been working with students to prepare (because, honestly, when approaching these things, much of the battle is actually practicing the unique format of the test rather than beefing up on the knowledge). Cooper, with a boatload of his friends and peers, participated in an after-school prep class to improve their test-taking skill set. I wasn’t worried, and hoped to pass on my ease to Mitzi and Cooper as test day loomed.
In fact, we were so relaxed about the whole thing, I almost forgot about it yesterday morning. It wasn’t until I received the email from the school nurse that I slapped my forehead. It was MCAS! Her email shared Mitzi’s pretest blood sugar number.
Ah, yes. See, before she takes a test of any length (like, beyond a spelling test), Mitzi has to test her blood. If her numbers are off, she has to wait until they regulate before she can take the test. Usually, this is not a problem — either her numbers are fine, or they come down quickly enough that she can make up the work later in the day (if not sooner).
But we ran into an issue when she took her first MCAS as a third-grader last year. The anxiety, stress, fear of it contributed to her sky-high numbers that morning, and she wound up taking the test after lunch in a private room (ultimately, no worse for it — she only got one answer wrong.)
So we weren’t to fussed about it this year. Both Mitzi and Cooper are very smart, and we are all confident in their abilities. We knew if they were relaxed, they’d do well. End of story.
Before breakfast, I changed Mitzi’s infusion set and refilled her insulin reservoir, as it was almost empty. A good breakfast, a happy goodbye. Things were fine.
When I got the email, I wasn’t worried to see Mitzi’s blood sugar a little high, in the low 200’s. After all, an hour earlier she’d eaten a big bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and the insulin was probably still working madly to process all that sugar. But, because it was not normal, she couldn’t start that day’s assessment, the long composition portion.
The reason for this is simple. A high blood sugar can cause a foggy brain, body shakes, nausea, and increased anxiety. Certainly not a test-taking state of mind! So, we wait.
As the morning went on, her numbers went up and up and up, despite being relaxed, reading a book in the nurse’s office, waiting for the insulin to work. A little after 11:30 a.m., the phone rang. Mitzi’s numbers were almost 400, and she had ketones — which had gone from 0.3 to 0.4 in just an hour. Something was amiss.
I had the nurse give Mitzi a shot of insulin and grabbed my supplies. I needed to go to school and figure out why the pump was not working. When Mitzi removed the infusion set, it was clear — the tiny cannula was bent like a paper clip, and examining the spot on her belly where it’d had been placed, it was clear the tube never made it into her skin, just pressed against it, held fast by the adhesive.
By that point, there was no way she could take the test. It was almost noon, and while kids have as long as they need to do this portion of the exam, her blood sugar wouldn’t be normal for hours. Since everyone was testing, all we could do was pack up her stuff and go home (where, of course, her blood sugar not only normalized, but was on the low end for the rest of the day). She’ll have to do the makeup day, missing out on classwork that day. What happens if things go much the same way? We don’t know.
I’ll say it again — I hate standardized tests. These days, it’s for the reasons I said before, but also because of this added stress for my child.
I can tell you this, though — on makeup day, I will make darned sure to NOT change her infusion set in the morning. Lesson learned.
Huh. I guess we now have our own standardized test, just for parents of diabetics. No child left behind, indeed.