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Staying Engaged Through Testing Displacement

The first round of proctoring assignments and room changes went out and I breathed an audible sigh of relief when my room was unused and the usual disruption to the flow of classes wouldn't arrive.

(I mean, the disruption above and beyond the sheer annoyance that is the testing schedule and the additional sanctions put on the high school to ensure a better testing environment for the middle school - the roles are reversed during Regents testing).

Of course, the relief came too soon as there was a revision of days later that did in fact make use of my room. It was a pre-April 1st - April Fool's gift. But at least I had days to plan accordingly and inform students where to go to try to minimize confusion.

Aside from the inconvenience of being displaced into a room that doesn't have the resources or layout I need, my classroom needs to be covered up or stripped bare to become a sterile testing environment.

"Ms. Sackstein, what happened to your room? It's so empty!"

Multiple students make a similar statement and then shake their heads in disbelief because if there is one thing my room ALWAYS is, is text rich and attractive. Right now it's just blue and sad.

Despite the location change and lack of convenient resources, learning must go on.

So here are some tips to help that happen in a way that is meaningful to students and as seamless as possible:

  • As soon as the change is happening, make students aware of the change and assure them that class will be business as usual.

  • Make sure to hang signs on the day of the exam, to remind students and minimize confusion. We can't take for granted that people forget and we don't want students to be penalized.

  • Remind them the day before of where to report and when.

  • Make sure students are aware of all of the materials they will need as they will likely not be able to retrieve stuff from their lockers. Verbally tell them and also, list it on a poster or something for the visual learners.

  • Make sure lessons are planned in advance that will make use of the new space. (If you've never been in the room, go and visit it prior to the class, so you know what the space looks like before you get there and can plan accordingly)

  • Remind students that there will be limited hallway passes and that they should bring whatever they need with them as locker passes won't be assigned.

  • Try to plan activities that can be done quietly so as to not disturb surrounding rooms. This is a good time for class tests if you must give them, or quiet writing activities.

  • Try to avoid loud group work assignments during these days as students won't be able to make the most of this time in that way and could potentially get in trouble or be disruptive to nervous test-takers.

Although testing can be an annoyance to all involved, they are an unfortunate reality in today's educational climate. The best we can do is make the most of the time we have with kids and remind them that it's temporary.

So to everyone in NY giving the grades 3-8 testing in ELA and Math, best of luck to you and your students. Perhaps one day, school won't be so much about testing and grades, but more about curiosity and learning. We can make that happen. But for now, let's make the best of it.

Although this was written in 2016, the pandemic showed us that standardized state testing is not necessary to determine what students have learned. Those tests are inherently inequitable for a number of reasons and hardly show what kids know and can do. As a collective, educators need to make a serious commitment to shifting the way we determine the success of our instruction.

What are you doing to make the necessary changes? Please share

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in April of 2016


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