This week, my daughter’s grade is taking their statewide standardized test. The bulk of each morning will be spent assessing their skills in reading, writing and arithmetic. They’ve completed many weeks of sample tests, and have been working on their writing skills throughout the year. They are as ready as they will ever be to prove what they know.
I received a call from the principal a couple of weeks ago informing me that, because of her 504 plan, my child would be taking her test in a “small group setting” in a separate room. As he went on to explain the reasons for this and to detail his discussions with the school nurse, teachers, and social worker, my mind was racing. When it was my turn to speak, I’m afraid I wasn’t initially as grateful as he expected me to be for the school’s concern.
I understand why she’s taking the test elsewhere. According to the statewide regulations for the test, if she left her regular classroom for any reason during the testing, she would not be allowed back in. She’d have to make up the whole day. So if she felt low or high, she’d have to decide whether to leave the room to see the nurse or tough it out, potentially skewing her score if her blood sugar is really out of range. More significantly in the long run, there is the potential effect on her health from not checking and treating when she should. I was also told the breaks would not be long enough for her mid-morning snack.
I really am grateful that the school’s staff is attuned to my daughter’s diabetes and has made sure she’s accommodated. But the whole time I was speaking with the principal, all I could think of was my daughter having to get up at test time and leave the classroom. We have a consistent message at our house, usually unspoken, but always present: you can do anything the other kids can do. I knew there may be exceptions to this rule, like being a contestant on Survivor, or flying to the moon, but I assumed we had some time before we ran across them. Apparently, though, she can do anything other kids can do except take the 3rd grade standardized test at her own desk with her teacher and her friends. I spent the hours until she came home from school fretting about how I would explain this to her.
In the end, I used a bit of spin. ”You get unlimited time to take the test. You can leave the room anytime you don’t feel right. So take advantage of it. Take your time. Get up and stretch. Enjoy your snack…I’ll send you something fun.” Her initial expression of bewilderment about these rules quickly turned into an “O.K., Mommy.” And she was off to do her homework.
There were a thousand questions later, like where exactly she’d take the test, what teacher would be with her, what other kids would be there, and what happened if the other kids took much longer than she did. All those questions were answered yesterday, the first day of the test. It was “great,” she said. The aide from her classroom, who she likes very much, was their proctor. She got her snack on time. She got to go to the bathroom when she needed to, “and there was nobody in there, Mommy, since they weren’t allowed!” As it turned out, her little group finished testing half an hour before the rest of the kids, so she got to chat about Harry Potter and draw pictures.
In the end, it’s always about making lemons into lemonade. Sometimes it takes me a while to get the sour taste out of my mouth when diabetes throws me for a loop, but if I’m able to make lemonade for my daughter, it’s well worth the effort.