It is that time of year again. State testing. I usually don't stress about it because at this point, what can you do? Encouragement is my best advice . . . as is peppermint candy, so I have heard. (Something to do with memory. . . I think. I don't really remember!) Guess I need to chomp on some peppermint to boost my concentration! [Digging in the desk junk drawer. Ah-ha! Red and white swirl. Twisting the clear cellophane wrapper open. Crinkle and crunch.] Oh! Now I remember what I was chatting about before the "interrupting peppermint". . .
I'm starting to feel anxious about "THE TEST," as Miss Malarkey would say.
Last year was the first year our school (just barely) did not meet AYP (adequate yearly progress). We have a high percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged and also the majority of our population is ELL. We have a new administrator this year learning how and why we do the things we currently do and making the conscious decision not to drastically change anything. But in the back of my mind I'm wondering: Will we make it this year? How can we? What have we changed? What have we improved? What impact will the process of RtI have on our students? What happens if we don't meet AYP a second year? So many questions are looming.
However, here is what I truly believe in: Great instruction. All. Year. Long. I don't teach to the test. I consider it another genre. We learn to approach tests differently, just as we approach fiction and nonfiction differently. I know in my heart we are doing our best, trying new strategies, and meeting the needs of all learners.
Regardless, the kids always work so hard and do their very best. We'll have students who exceed and find the assessment a breeze; we'll have kids who are encouraged to go back and check their answers because twenty minutes to finish reading the passage, answering the questions, and writing the extended response just seems to quick; we'll have others who struggle through it and analyze every question and answer; and we'll even have students who tell us it was a piece of cake, knowing full well that they couldn't read or comprehend the text.
What matters most is that they try and put forth the effort and achievement that we strive for EVERY day. Not just on a state testing day.
That's what matters.
(By the way, new research states that students who write about their anxieties before a test could help students perform better. We'll try that this year, but it may still be worth sharing the peppermint too. Any advantage will help! Or, what about this? An entrepreneur has seized the moment: peppermint smart smencils. What next?!? Peppermint erasers? Peppermint paper? Peppermint tests!?!)