CHS has now studied and tested for three months under the new school policy that dictates the days each department can test. With ample time to see how it works, it is clear that the well-intentioned administrative decree only agitates the problem it attempts to solve.
According to assistant school administrator Brandi Richardson, the testing day policy was originally conceived as a means of relieving student stress. The administration resolved that CHS students, as an incredibly involved bunch who constantly push their schedules to the limit, would draw huge benefits from a fixed testing schedule—a solution that would, in theory, finally eliminate the dreaded “double test” day. In theory.
It seemed simple enough. If each department were to test students only on its specified day, then the classes will never align for students, and keeping the test schedule spaced out might help students prepare for each assessment more effectively. Weeks might be more consistent, grades a little higher and students less stressed.
Unfortunately, that is not how it panned out. The policy has been met, not with tears of joy, but rather complaints from both teachers and students.
In practice, teachers cannot be expected to master the telemetry required to twist their lesson plans in a way that gently lands every major assessment on the assigned department test day. The rule allows for no flexibility when the inevitable occurs.
Ancient History teacher Douglas Kraus has already been forced to push a test back an entire week due to a series of school-related conflicts combined with an inflexible test day schedule. Rather than review the same material for seven days until the next available Monday or Thursday (social studies department test days), Kraus had to begin teaching the next unit.
Thus, in the name of student relief, students now must handle interrupted lesson plans and undergo the precarious juggling of test content and new material.
Regardless, assessments should still be evenly spaced throughout the week, and students should still benefit from a consistent test schedule void of any department assessment conflicts.
But that consistent test schedule isn’t happening.
The English department does not always schedule essay due dates according to its prescribed testing days, so students can still find an inordinate amount of work one night when a research paper that determines one’s quarter grade is due the same day of an AP Biology test.
Additionally, the rule takes no account for quizzes, which have been loosely defined as any assessment requiring less than 45 minutes to complete. Although they often require studying and occur much more frequently than tests, quizzes may be administered whenever a teacher pleases, so long as they take 40 minutes or less. The result may be coinciding math, history and science quizzes all on the same day.
Further, the department testing day policy rests on the assumption that all students have a shallow interest in every scholastic discipline. This may be true for freshman and sophomore year schedules, as they are largely determined by requirement, but by junior and senior year, students begin to grasp what they enjoy learning and what they would rather not study.
This is a healthy development and a great transition to college, but the testing policy punishes anyone who takes an interest in a department beyond one class. The history geek that can’t take enough social studies classes will thus be punished by stressful Fridays that have more than one test.
For all its strictness, the testing policy cannot evenly disperse all stressful assessments over the week without also dictating pesky variables like essays, quizzes and single-department-heavy student schedules.
Anatomy teacher James Fishman has seen no decrease in student anxiety, no reduction in stress. The policy only hinders teachers by restraining curricula.
It means well, but it does poorly. This policy does more harm than good at CHS by augmenting student stress.
Or maybe it’s harm in another sense. Maybe it is not the effect of the department testing day rule but the principle. Maybe it is the idea that is hurting CHS students. If someone has to promise us that every test in a class will be on a Wednesday and that the teacher will regularly bend over backward to fulfill this promise, we don’t have a test problem, but a study problem.
Instead of trying to reverse unfavorable effects by avoiding stressful days, the school must have the courage to aim for the root of the problem. It must acknowledge that either we are signing up for classes we cannot keep up with, or we simply do not know how to study. The former it cannot control, but the latter it can. A school that produces students with good study habits, as opposed to students with privileged excuses for failure, will prepare its students for the inevitable day they have to conquer stress that exceeds anything they faced at CHS.