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Journalism: Just How Stressful Are Midyear Assessments, Really?

image from prospect.orgI didn't mean for my recent comments about Dana Goldstein's American Prospect piece to overshadow my appreciation of her efforts and the article, but Goldstein's taken the opportunity to respond on her blog (How I Reported My Latest Feature Story) and that's great.  It hasn't really changed my thinking, however.  I admire how many people Goldstein spoke with but remain concerned she focused on teachers who were introduced (or self-selected meeting attendees) and presented only those who were critical.  It would have been so interesting to hear from a teacher who didn't mind the extra testing or even thought it helped her do her job better.  As for the issue of test stress, I agree that multiple midyear assessments change the "feel" of a school year but not that they're necessarily stressful for kids (or even teachers).  They're often brief, they're rarely part of a kid's grade. So I would have loved it if Goldstein had shown us some classroom scenes of how they're presented to the kids and how the kids seem to feel about them.  Over all, however, I sense that my differences with Goldstein are philosophical rather than journalistic, and I respect her practice of including information that doesn't fit into just one view of events.  You can (and should) read the story here.


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When we talk about assessment weeks, we generally do so in the context of elementary schools. As a parent of two high school students, both enrolled in multiple AP courses and other courses with large project requirements, the 10-day hiatus for testing is a nightmare. These are typically the students that lift the school's scores – yet they must participate to no personal benefit but with real impact on their coursework.

So, yes, testing does add stress for kids who have no horse in this race. I'm considering pulling my kids for that week + so they can focus on the classes in which they must excel for college admission.


It would be a good ideaa to interview a Colorado teacher "who didn't mind the extra testing or even thought it helped her do her job better."

I'm sure there is a teacher who would support that level of testing, but I've never met one.

I'm sure there are teachers of young students who can turn testing into a game. For teenagers, they know that standardized testing is rubbing their noses in it, and no amount of happy talk by a teacher could minimize the indignity of it.

The search for such a teacher would be an interesting story in and of itself. That's something that Goldstein could have done explicitly as part of the article -- or made it a sidebar.

I like your idea of finding a teachers who welcome more standardized testing and find it helps their teaching.

In our school in DC of over 130 teachers I can only think of maybe 2 that would give positive feed back on standardized testing, and they are by far the most "accountant like" teachers in our school, and they are new. I think like everything else, if you start changing education you start to change education culture. These teachers are everything you might expect from such a testing culture. Professional for sure, polite, but somewhat cold, never volunteering for community work in the school, takes testing very seriously and loves to drill classrooms. They also have very strict control of their classrooms, not a peep. But the funny thing is, and the thing that no one wants to hear, is such teachers are out performed on even standardized tests by old school teachers who favor a more organic classroom environment, could give a crap about test scores and only care about the children, their well being and development.

To quote Rhee against Rhee, who would you rather be teaching your own child, and if you have no child, who would you rather have as a teacher?

After many years in public education in Georgia I still do not fully see the need of midyear assessments outside of the classroom teachers evaluations. Good teachers know their students by midyear and are capable of assessing them. Today I teach part-time at a local university.Last year the Board of Regents stopped the well known English and Reading Regents Exam, which I had to take many years ago at Georgia State University. Now they say the English course material if passed does the same testing as the Regents Exam.
Why did it take so many years to figure this out, or is it a result of the many needed budget cuts?

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