Should state tests be administered later in the school year? Unlike many tests there may not be one right answer.
A new legislative proposal to move state tests to the end of the school year ignores a couple of practical issues associated with testing. Districts are required to administer computer-based assessments, but there are not enough computers for all of our students. Rotating students through each school’s computer labs to complete testing is a necessary procedure in many schools, but in a compressed schedule there would be insufficient time to complete the rotation. For larger schools, the problem would become even greater — it is always a challenge to ensure that all students have access to computers and that mandated assessments are completed.
The end of the year is also a crowded period of testing for many high school students who take Advanced Placement, Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education and International Baccalaureate External Written exams. Adding state tests to this part of the school calendar will create additional burdens on our students unless the legislation will allow these exams to be counted in lieu of state assessments. Besides these logistical problems, there is a concern that pushing tests to the end of the school year translates to a never-ending break from the testing environment for our teachers and students.
I’ve seen that teachers are able to exercise more freedom in their classrooms after the testing periods conclude. There are further opportunities for greater flexibility in the curriculum, which includes scheduling and participating in field trips and going more in-depth into topics of special interest to students. Everyone looks forward to crawling out from under the crushing weight of assessments for a chance to breathe and experience learning without the looming tests hanging over their heads.
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With later testing times, we are likely to prolong the agony and see the elimination of innovative programs, speaking engagements, special assemblies, enrichment offerings and more opportunities for creative expression that many instructional personnel were planning to provide for their students.
One positive outcome from changing the dates for state tests may be that teachers feel less pressure to get through the entire curriculum in a compressed period of time, and that they have nearly an entire school year to cover course requirements. Pacing guides for teachers could be relaxed recognizing there is additional time to teach before testing begins.
If state tests are moved by the Florida Legislature to dates closer to the end of the school year, then consideration should be given for providing some mechanism to be put into place requiring a test-free period during the school year, or an encouraged “test-free” day during each week of the school year where practice tests and worksheets related to tests are avoided.
Martin Karp is a member of the Miami-Dade County School Board.