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Just another day

In the weeks to come, elementary and middle school students across the state will be taking the end-of-grade tests. This is often a stressful time for teachers, principals, young students and parents, but we need to put tests in perspective.

A student’s performance on an end-of-grade test is not a movie of his or her life, but just a single snapshot from one point in time.

And this snapshot should not have a significant effect on the entire course of a student’s academic career. In fact, it is spelled out in state law that end-of-grade test scores should never be used as the only factor in making the decision to promote or retain the student. Principals are required by law to consider the student’s performance in class, on class assignments and projects, homework and end-of-grade test scores when they are making decisions regarding retention.

If I could waive a magic wand, I would make test days just like every other school day.

A colleague of mine recently shared that one of her daughter’s best experiences with testing so far was in a school that does very little to recognize the end-of-grade testing period. There is no build-up, no pep rally, no countdown to testing time. In fact, her young daughter’s first mention of an upcoming end-of-grade test was when she got out of the car on the day of the test and said, “I think I have a test today!” There was no worry or stress about the tests for weeks and months in advance so her daughter did not feel the fear or pressure that so many students (and teachers!) experience once the testing season begins.

Testing provides us with important information about how well we are preparing students for the next grade.

Test results also may show us where some students may need additional assistance and support. We use this information to make policy changes and improvements in teaching and learning at the school, district and state levels.

But at the end of the day, test scores are just one piece of the puzzle.

These scores are one of many things educators consider when they look at a student’s overall academic performance over the year. They are one snapshot that is part of a much, much larger collage. That is why test days really should be treated as just another day.

Dr. June Atkinson

June Atkinson is the state superintendent of public instruction for North Carolina. Read her full profile here >>