Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Transparent Testing Year

One of the dishonest things that schools do is to fold testing time into the rest of the year.

We get our "testing window" from the state and set the test prep elements of our year as we wish, and so testing appears to be going on while school is happening, suggesting that school and testing are related activities and also hiding from the public just how much time the state is using for the Big Standardized Test.

Imagine what would happen if we were honest about what is actually going on. Imagine this announcement from your state capital:

Next year, the school year will end on April 7. At that time, your local school district will issue report cards for the year. There will be a spring break, and then on April 14, students will report to school for the testing year. Schools will be given approximately two weeks to prepare for the test, and then test administration will begin. Students in non-testing grades will not need to report. At the conclusion of the testing year, students will be released for summer vacation. See you next fall!

There would be considerable advantages. For one, my high school ties itself in knots trying to accommodate both testing and non-testing students, not to mention bouncing teachers back and forth between covering classes, teaching classes, and proctoring tests. The testing year would allow schools to devote teaching staff to test proctoring and administration without having to pretend they're doing anything else.

Meanwhile, students could focus all their fear and loathing into one month (or so). And students who were in non-testing years would get a bonus vacation instead of a bonus study hall with some bad g-rated movie.

Now, some folks may say that it's a terrible idea to shorten the real school year by a month or more, but what do they think is happening now? Our actual teaching year is shortened by testing. It doesn't get any simpler than that. So let's stop pretending it isn't happening, cut the teaching year short and devote the testing season to testing.

We've shortened the teaching year, a move that I'm betting absolutely nobody thinks is a good idea. But we've done it in a sneaky, opaque manner without any discussion or debate. So let's put the choice we're making out there. Let's have folks try to argue that shortening the teaching year will be great for students with difficulties, that shortening the school year will help close the achievement gap, that fewer instructional hours will be a big benefit to non-white non-wealthy students, that a shorter school year is a great way to protect civil rights. Let's have that conversation instead of pretending we don't have to and that adding days or weeks of testing doesn't take a thing away from the actual business of school.

Let's stop hiding the time and opportunity cost of BS Testing. Let's have a transparent testing year.


  1. Yes. This is spot on. The school year ends sometime in April. That's when all learning of new material completely stops. Your child will not learn much the rest of the year. That is sad. This is my number one complain against this excessive testing. It wastes far too much precious instructional time.

  2. We have three trimesters now: Aug - Dec, instruction; Jan - Mar, test prep; Apr - June, testing.

  3. Thank you! I am totally gonna steal this when told testing is necessary to ensure the civil rights of my special education son.

  4. So over the top it. Sometimes it takes a little theater of the absurd to catch the attention of the complacent. This should do it.