It all started when Brooke’s team leader was kind enough to walk us through the portfolio that she and Brooke have been working hard on putting together to present to the Massachusetts Department of Education for the MCAS-ALT. MCAS stands for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, but it’s much better known to many special needs families throughout the state as Those %$@#ing Standardized Tests.
Since there was not really a snow ball’s chance in Hell of my girl sitting through a two-hour test no less, ya know, taking it, Brooke’s team recommended her for the MCAS-ALT, described by the Mass DOE as follows.
MCAS is designed to measure a student’s knowledge of key concepts and skills outlined in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. A small number of students with the most significant disabilities who are unable to take the standard MCAS tests even with accommodations participate in the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt). MCAS-Alt consists of a portfolio of specific materials collected annually by the teacher and student. Evidence for the portfolio may include work samples, instructional data, videotapes, and other supporting information.
And yes, A small number of students with the most significant disabilities stings, but I’m very glad that the option exists for kiddos like mine.
So, back to the portfolio.
After our parent teacher conference last week, Brooke’s team leader brought us in to show us the binder that they’ve been readying to hand into the DOE. And right there, on the second page was the absolutely, positively best piece of writing I’ve ever seen.
I give you my girl, in her own words.
As always, I hope you’ll excuse my clumsy photo shopping skills. I know how to take Brooke’s real name out, but not how to put ‘Brooke’ in and my IT guy is sleeping.
Hi my name is Brooke. I am 8 years old. I’m in grade 3 and my favorite thing to do is to do pixwriter. I like to publish stories. I like to play with the camping toys. I like to swing high in the hammock. I find the monkey bars on the playground hard. I don’t like the fire alarm because it hurts my ears and I cover them. My favorite thing to do at home is put on plays called sleeping beauty where I am sleeping beauty when my family watches it when it is a video of it when my mom says and now presenting Brooke’s play with singing and dancing. I also like to play Nick Jr. on the computer. I like to watch TV. I like to watch Sesame Street.
As we read Brooke’s autobiography, I thought of a letter that a friend had shared with me a couple of years ago. It was written to students by a woman named Mary Ginley, who was, for reasons that will soon be obvious, the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year in 1998.
This is what it said:
I would like to address a letter to all the students who received their MCAS scores this week.
Dear students: For all of you who took the MCAS tests last May, please remember that strangers gave you these scores. And that there are many ways of being smart.
These strangers do not know that you can speak two languages. They do not know that you can play the violin or dance or paint a picture. They do not know that you take care of your little brother after school, that your friends can count on you to be there for them, that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day.
They do not know that you write poetry, wonder about black holes, know exactly how much change you should get when you go to the market.
They do not know that you are trustworthy, that you are kind, that you are thoughtful. They do not know that you spent your summer with a 700-page Harry Potter book.
They do not know you. But we who know you – your moms and dads, your grandparents and teachers, your neighbors and friends – are proud of all you are and all you will be. MCAS scores will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. There are many ways of being smart.
And I thought, As hard as it may be for my girl to put that portfolio together, she is blessed to have the opportunity to do it. Why? Because she is one of only a handful of kids who get to not only show the DOE what they know, but also (at least a little bit of) who they are.
I hope whomever it is at the DOE who gets to read it knows just how lucky they are too.