Testing days are not to blame

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Ben Porter | WSPN

According to Ben, the dreaded testing days at the end of each quarter act as scapegoats for students' stress. Do you agree?

As the second quarter comes to a close at Wayland High School, students scramble from the library to class and back to the library again. It is the time when the finish line for the quarter is visible, and students are giving their last push to improve their grades. But when the end of the quarter rolls around every two months or so, testing days are once again cursed by many students and yes, even teachers.

The concept of “testing days” was first implemented at WHS eight years ago with a noble purpose: to limit the increased stress placed on the shoulders of students at the end of each quarter.

Before testing days, the end of the quarter led to “an assessment free-for-all,” according to Robin Fitch, who has taught English for ten years at WHS. Students could even have three, four, five or more assessments on the last day before grades closed.

Testing days were created to relieve some of the student body’s pressure and have worked quite well. Now, you are hard-pressed to find a student with more than two assessments on one day at the end of the quarter, let alone five. So why is it that testing days have such a bad reputation?

Ironically, the very system intended to decrease stress for students increases the pressure on a different group at WHS: the teachers.

Although testing days have generally served their purpose, the system comes at a cost. As it turns out, kids are not the only ones who begin to scramble as the end of the quarter nears. As the clock ticks down, teachers hustle just like their students in an effort to assess them before time runs out.

Testing days are a burden on the teachers, restricting their scheduling flexibility in the name of student stress prevention.

“Testing days tend to stress out teachers and cause anxiety because we are trapped; we can only assess on certain days,” history teacher Patricia Halpin said. “Because of the schedule rotation, it may look like we have a few choices, but in reality, we may only be able to test on one or two days.”

This limitation of our teachers’ flexibility has led to a second problem with testing days: unprepared students taking tests. Although much fault lies with these students for not studying enough, our system is also to blame since it’s the reason teachers are unable to push back a test, even if they know the class isn’t ready.

What’s more, testing days are not completely effective in preventing an overload of work for students. Although they’ve lowered the burden from a maximum of five tests to three, three tests are still too many to take on a single day.

These problems have led to a bad reputation for testing days because they have blinded the students from the positive aspects of the system. We curse testing days because we never experienced their predecessor. While I do become outraged at the possibility of facing three assessments in one day, in reality, the burden we face now is much better than the alternative.

I know that I am often far from grateful for our testing days system, however, it is time for us to stop our squawking. Thanks to the implementation of our testing days system, the number of assessments at the end of the quarter is much lower than it once was at Wayland High School. We have never faced or had to endure a day with five tests.

When I took the time to weigh the pros and cons of our current system, it became clear that the burden we face is far less troublesome than it once was.

The truth is, much of the stress I feel at the end of the quarter is not the result of our testing policy. It’s not the assessments, the papers or the projects. It is simply the knowledge that the quarter is ending. I become stressed at the end of each quarter because I know if I slip up on an assignment, I won’t have a chance to recover before grades close.

Testing days have become scapegoats for all that is wrong with a student’s life at the end of the quarter. We blame the very system that is protecting us from “an assessment free-for-all.” Although testing days are by no means perfect, we should think of the alternative and stop complaining.

Next time the end of the quarter has you down, take the time to ask whether testing days are really to blame. At least think of the teachers who are making sacrifices, so your workload can be more bearable. Suddenly, that chem test won’t seem so bad.

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