Things I Know 89 of 365: It’s the testing holidays

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

– Albert Einstein

Used to be it took a proclamation from Congress to create a holiday. Though education reform initiatives over the last decade haven’t exactly been proclamations, they’ve certainly created a holiday. A month-long holiday.

For SLA, the holiday season started last week with the advent of Pennsylvania’s standardized tests, the PSSA’s.

Math and reading were last week, writing finished this week and we’re looking forward to the science test in two weeks as a break from teaching.

When I met with one of my G11 classes today, we actually took a couple of minutes to greet each other and catch up as the testing schedule has kept us apart over the last few weeks.

We took separate vacations.

And while the tests have meant a break from the meaningful and authentic learning our G11 students engage in at SLA, some schools treat the testing holidays as though they are the time of year when their students do any real work.

Phone calls are made home to remind students to show up to school. Some schools cater breakfasts for students.

Students know they will be rewarded with the educational equivalent of Christmas bonuses if they’re shown to have made top gains when the testing results come in.

And while G9, 10 and 12 students at SLA attended classes as usual (with some room switches), in other schools the testing holiday looked like a real holiday for those students not being proctored.

Oh, the proctoring.

Again, treating the holiday season as though its more important than when actual learning is taking place, proctors face rooms of testees with attitudes that are, well, testy.

Looks of scorn and dictatorial attitudes are assumed in an effort I can only assume to frighten the smarts out of the students.

I guess I missed the study showing stressed students preform better.

On the other hand, there’s a way to treat students like people – even during the testing holidays.

Talking to kids as they enter the room, providing them with peppermints, smiling, treating to them the same way you treated them before the break and the same way you will treat them when classes resume.

If we must test (and for now we must), let’s treat it like school.

I know it’s not – not the best versions of school, anyway.

Still, let’s pretend so we can avoid those humanity gaps that we know can occur over breaks in learning.

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