Tangled up in testing

Multitude of exams stress students, confuse priorities

Between Advanced Placement (AP) Exams, End of Course Exams (EOCs), District Level Assessments (DLAs) and  the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR), more than a few students are feeling the pressure of the last few weeks of school.

It is time to question if students are testing more than they are learning. Something has to give, and the district, state and teachers need to work together to reduce the amount of testing students have to go through.

Students who are taking AP exams have to prove to the College Board that they are competent on a college level. Testing them again a few weeks after in order to put a grade on report cards does not serve any purpose. Most likely, the grade they have in the class will reflect on the AP exam and retesting them only leads to wearing them down. Students deserve the peace of mind of knowing that after a test where they have to compete on a national (sometimes international) level, they will be done for the school year. If students need the final exam grade to bring up their grade in the class they should be given the option to take it.

This brew of assessments only takes away important class time.  For juniors, who have the U.S. History STAAR the week of AP testing, the weeks ahead are becoming more than a little overwhelming. By scheduling the state level assessment within the two week time span that AP exams annually take place, the state has led to scheduling conflicts for numerous students and removal of class time needed for last minute AP exam preparation. It will also lead to lower scores on both sets of examinations as many students will feel stretched too thin. It is time for the State to take into account if testing is achieving its purpose.

The district has a definite emphasis on AP exams. Sometimes students can only choose between AP courses or academic level courses. If the district wants to be AP oriented they should integrate practices to make the testing process smoother for students. Students who are AP testing should be given a dead week in order to prepare, instead of worrying about prioritizing between AP exams and regular tests in class. This practice only leads to lower scores on both exams. A dead week would give students an opportunity to go into AP exams well rested and prepared, resulting in higher scores. Higher scores lead to a better reputation for the district.

Some say that each of these exams serves their own purpose, but in reality they are all testing student’s knowledge. Even lawyers, doctors and others testing for professional degrees only have to take one final assessment to prove their skills, after having ample time to prepare without the worry of other smaller exams. It is time that high school started working more like college, and realizing that testing students multiple times on subjects will only lead to bad results and stressed students.