Upcoming Standardized Testing Causes Stress With New Format and Hectic Schedule

UPCOMING STANDARDIZED TESTING CAUSES STRESS WITH A NEW FORMAT AND HECTIC SCHEDULE -- Elizabeth Zachary,this year's testing coordinator, is hard at work organizing the schedule and entering the last portion of mandatory credentials.

Cassandra Castillo

UPCOMING STANDARDIZED TESTING CAUSES STRESS WITH A NEW FORMAT AND HECTIC SCHEDULE -- Elizabeth Zachary,this year's testing coordinator, is hard at work organizing the schedule and entering the last portion of mandatory credentials.

Cassandra Castillo, Staff Writer

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The end of the 2017-2018 year is soon upon us. Everyone is excited for graduation and summer vacation, but before that the final exams have to be taken. Students as well as the teachers are frantic on reviewing what they have learned over the past year, but the difference from the previous EOC exams is that this year they are being taken on computers.

“In previous years, the test was given on paper and students used a pencil and were able to write in a test book. This year, technology will definitely change the way they answer questions and solve problems on their science and math tests,” informed Central’s chemistry teacher, Brielle Farrow.

Many classes have multiple parts of the exam, which makes testing time last almost three weeks, even while having tests twice a day. This year the testing schedule starts early, but does take a while to get every student to complete all of their exams on time. With that being said, grades are expected to come back by ‪May 21, making them part of the students’ final grades.

“I don’t like having so many sections to the test. I think one part without calculator and one part with calculator is a better approach,” suggested Peggy Moyer, a math teacher at Central, “I have never liked having EOC’s a month before school ends. It wastes too much learning time, the test not being entirely multiple choice is good in that it requires more careful working out the problems, but bad because some parts need human versus machine grading which takes more time.”

“I am hopeful that the new testing format will benefit students. Although, I am concerned that due to the time constraints, students will be rushed and their scores may not reflect their level of mastery for a subject,” conveyed Farrow.

“Looking at next week’s schedule, I will see one of my classes only twice, and most of my students won’t be there due to their scheduled EOC exams. That means that I will basically lose a full week with that class, and that is just week one of a three-week testing period,” admitted 10th grade English teacher, Sally White, “ I will also have only one planning period all week… I expect to have a few hundred more gray hairs by the time this is over,” White teased.

Educators as well as the students are anxious about the changes in the schedule. Missing some classes and spending around two hours in others can be disconcerting, but both the students and teachers are prepared to take on the challenge.

“I’m usually a class teacher, so I’m not used to this information. I’m in disarray; the testing company is continually refining the requirements,” imparted Elisabeth Zachary, Central’s curriculum coach, “Although they keep requesting information, I’m managing to stay on top of my work.”

“The test schedule is always hectic due to the amount of tests the state requires. However, our test administrators have done a great job planning, organizing and relaying information to the test proctors, EOC class teachers, and students,” clarified Farrow.

Teachers agree that there are benefits to taking the exams on computers; they eradicate long grading time, as well as the making and sorting of tests. Along with distribution, collection, and submission of test booklets and answer sheets which will be much less time consuming.

“This manual process takes a lot more time than people realize and typically requires a great deal of extra work on the part of already stressed, overburdened teachers. Another perceived benefit, one that is often cited as the premise for testing online, is that it is more reflective of our contemporary, high-tech culture,” acknowledged Sally White.

“I think the paper and pencil version worked well. However, it may be quicker and easier for grading purposes for students to take the exam on the computer. Although, I don’t necessarily believe incorporating technology in grading the test will improve student test scores,” admitted Farrow.

On the other hand, students are not very pleased with the new testing format; they feel to be more concentrated on paper exams rather than chrome books. This method is new and students are not used to it, as they have only done few practice EOC problems on the provided chrome books in class.

“Personally, I really wish we wouldn’t do the EOC’s on computers. I feel better when I can write down my thoughts on the actual test booklet and not on a separate piece of paper,” sophomore, Abby Young convicted, “I find that the practice EOC’s are helping me prepare. I’m able to work on the areas I forgot or those I’m confused on and I think the teachers are doing the best they can to help us. It’s pretty hard to prepare the students when you don’t really know what’s going to be on the test,” Young vocalized.

“The only type of test I’m okay with doing on a computer is an essay. Computers allow us to edit extremely efficiently, but all other tests I’d prefer to do with paper and pencil, especially math tests,” elucidated sophomore, Alejandro Salazar, “Growing up, we’ve taken tests with paper and pencil, that’s familiar to us, so when they take away that familiarity and replace it with computers, it feels foreign. Tests already make people anxious and to add this foreign element, it might make people even more anxious and uncomfortable. This causes them to have low scores making them less accurate and less reliable,” he added.

The teachers believe it is an easy effective way to grade exams, but they remain skeptical, especially with the lack of computers around the school. While computers are being used to simplify grading time, they still place the most concern among the teachers as they have caused problems in the past.

“The obvious irony, however, is that most of our classrooms and classwork are not yet online, and the expectation that our students will quickly adapt to the online format for high-stakes testing is somewhat daunting, particularly for students who already struggle with test anxiety,” explained Sally White, “Other pitfalls include the risk of technical glitches and the limited supply of technology to support testing.”

“I am very nervous about the computers, the practice English tests had several problems using the chrome books. I heard an acquaintance in Cookeville said they were having the same problem so that made me think it may be a Questor problem statewide. I know there have been some system upgrades since then, so I hope all goes well,” confessed Moyer, “I think it is important to get the scores back for the exam grade. If the state can’t do that, I would prefer to write my own exam which I know I can grade in a timely manner. I have read several studies that say scores are usually higher on paper exams than computer exams. We are already taking heat for low scores so I hate to do anything else to reduce the scores.

“The disruptions to teaching and learning are not worth any perceived advantages. If we had more technology to support the online testing and could limit its effect on our daily schedule, that might be another matter. Whether we test online or on paper, we spend far too much time on testing. As I once heard someone say, we spend more time weighing the pig than feeding it. I’d rather just teach,” imparted White, “For now,we are all hoping for the best, as testing is already a very stressful time, even without the complications of system glitches and the implications they could have on our already compromised class schedule,” concluded White.


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