Assessment Season: The Perfect Storm

Leah Clark Uncategorized

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When I teach poetry and literature, I teach my students to analyze the seasons. When we look at spring, we annotate phrases such as “growth, rebirth, renewal, cleansing, pure, and clean.” We talk about Mother Nature and her powers. We compare her to the other seasons. I ask them why the author selected spring for the setting? I hope my students see spring as a special season full of hope and optimism.

As a teacher though, spring is not full of hope or optimism. It’s full of tests, tests, and more tests. And guess what? The assessment season is upon us.

When I analyze the assessment season, I see stress, anxiety, fatigue, nervousness, and pessimism for students and teachers. In other words, the perfect storm.

If you are an Arizona sophomore this year, you will complete five state assessments including, Pre-ACT, AZM2 Writing, AZM2 Reading, AZM2 Math, and AIMS science. Yes, folks five days of high-stakes tests. And with the changes to school letter grades, AZM2, formerly AZMerit, the stakes have never been higher. This year 50% of school letter grades are directly tied to student performance on the test adding stress to teachers and thus even more stress for students as they feel the pressure.

If you are enrolled in AP classes, don’t forget to add those tests in too. And if you are a student enrolled in a district with district-mandated tests like my kids, you will surely take those too.

Can you see my deep analysis of the assessment season now? Our kids are stressed out learning and practicing the tips, tricks, and strategies for each. They ask questions like: Is it timed or do I get the unlimited time? Do I need to write an essay? If so, what kind? Can I use my accommodations I use per my IEP or 504 plan? What kind of calculator can I use? Where am I taking this exam? Will I be able to take breaks? Does this affect my grade? How will I know if I passed?

Teachers ask questions like: How can I best prepare my students? What materials are available and what do I need to make? How much time should I devote to test preparations and how much of my content will I lose to test prep? How does this affect my performance and my school? What if my students don’t do well? And finally, does this test measure my students’ skills and abilities accuracy?

How can we expect our students to navigate all these tests and do well on them? Many of our students cope with personal stress let alone asking them to do their best on five state tests. This added stress can often be too much. Last year I was on “floater” duty during AZMerit testing when I found a student wondering our campus in tears because she didn’t know where to go to take her test. She was so worried she wouldn’t be able to finish because she was late. In tears over a stinkin’ test! Is that what our lawmakers want our students to experience? Isn’t school supposed to spark learning, develop character, and inspire future leaders to change the world? I argue that all this testing contributes negatively to students’ mental health and our decline in education. Kids are not meant to be little testing machines. They are meant to grow and bloom like spring flowers.

With so much at stake, how can we navigate to make it to sunny summer after the stormy assessment season? Leave a comment below.


Leah Clark

Phoenix, Arizona

I joined the teaching profession after spending several years in luxury retail. While the free clothes and handbags were definite job perks, I felt burned out and tired of long hours, weekends and holidays. So, I went back to school to become a teacher and have never looked back. I love my job!
My teaching philosophy is simple: Do what’s best for kids. While it’s not eloquent, this humble phrase directs every decision I make about teaching and students. As a Language Arts teacher at a central Phoenix high school, it’s my honor and passion to create opportunities for students to communicate, collaborate, create and connect with one another and the world around them.
When I am not grading a stack of essays, planning a new lesson, or chaperoning a school dance, I love riding my yellow Huffy bicycle around town, sampling a new restaurant, and traveling to Flagstaff with my husband.

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Comments 2

  1. Randi Fielding

    Great post! You bring up some important points. I think it’s unfortunate that state testing is so stressful. But I think one of the main reasons is because of the disconnect between daily classroom instruction and these high stakes tests. Teachers are frustrated that the tests may not accurately measure what they know their students know and can do. Students wonder if it’s worth the stress and hard work when they won’t see tangible results from their effort. I’m curious to hear some ways that teachers and administrators make testing relevant to their students…

    1. Leah Clark

      Me too! I just remind my students how important our school’s reputation is and that a big part of it, is their performance on assessments. I beg them not to let me down.

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