In Arkansas, as in many states, standardized tests are given well before the end of the school year. This year the augmented benchmarks for grades 3 through 8 were administered April 13-17 and the “end of course exams” for geometry, algebra, and biology were given April 21-29. Apparently the end of the course occurs 6 weeks before school breaks for the summer.
After the tests are done academic work grinds to a halt. Instead, academic content is increasingly replaced with field days, watching movies in school, parties, etc… as the end of the year approaches.
Don’t get me wrong, field days, watching movies, parties, etc… all have their place in a healthy school environment. It’s just odd that some educators who so often complain that testing narrows the curriculum and prevents them from pursuing the higher order instruction they really want seem at a loss about what to do when they no longer have the test bearing down on them. One would think that they would use those last 6 to 8 weeks to find their inner Alfie Kohn. Instead, a lot of it is used as play time.
Given how important time spent on instruction is to academic achievement, it would be great if we made full use of the academic year. Perhaps we can push back the tests closer to the real end of the school year. I know that grading tests, especially with open-ended items, is very slow. But frankly open-ended items add nothing to the predictive power of standardized tests, so eliminating that would allow faster grading, later testing, and fewer wasted days.