Excerpted from the AACPS Axis Newsletter, October 27, 2017…
TESTING WINDOWS EASE STUDENT STRESS, ANXIETY
“As we have examined and refined our grading and assessment policies and protocols over the years, we have put in place a number of changes designed to better reflect student knowledge and to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that has accompanied testing.
“At the high school level, we are focused on minimizing the stress that accompanies high-stakes assessments. Last year, we replaced high school two-hour semester exams with shorter quarterly assessments. This switch allows teachers to know how much and how well students have learned the material earlier in the process, and to home in on select standards at two times during the semester rather than waiting until the end of the semester for a final assessment.
“The change was accompanied by a reduction in the weighting of those assessments, designed to eliminate the make-or-break-your-grade mindset of many students. Formerly, two marking period grades each accounted for 40 percent of a student’s semester grade, and an end-of-semester exam made up the other 20 percent. Now, each marking period accounts for 50 percent of a total grade, with the quarterly assessment making up 10 percent of the marking period grade.
“Feedback from students, parents, teachers, and other school system employees over the last year showed the need for continued adjustments. What we found was that the format of two quarterly assessments a day over a four-day period – even with the reduced weighting placed on assessments – actually heightened anxiety among students and their parents. Some felt as if they were preparing for four of the old “final” exams and many students experienced more stress rather than less.
“After much discussion with many different groups, we have moved this year to testing windows during which assessments in a given content area will be administered over a predetermined time period.
“The benefits here are numerous: Students will take eight assessments over the last 15 days of a marking period as opposed to eight over a four-day period. In addition, this approach allows individual schools to determine what days will work best within their instructional day and eliminate a “final exam” culture.
“Our ultimate goal can be summed up in two words: student mastery. There is no one path to achieving that goal, and we are committed to continuing to explore the many and varied ways to get all of our students where they need to go.”
– Dr George Arlotto, AACPS Superintendent of Schools