“We are raising a stressed out generation of students who are over-tested and overanalyzed.”

Peter DeWitt: Elementary School Principal

from Finding Common Ground: No Testing Week

 

The other day I took some time to craft an e-mail in a Word document. I needed to take the time to make sure that I chose my words correctly. Sending the whole staff a message is something that I take seriously because once your words are out there, they can be interpreted in numerous ways. The reason for the e-mail was to communicate something that I feel strongly about. It had to do with the overuse of testing in the U.S. and the need to focus on creativity in our school.

Once a month I meet with my Principal’s Advisory Council (PAC). I have two co-chairs who are teachers within the building. They are open and honest, even when they are saying things I may not want to hear. PAC is not about venting about building issues, but about meeting to discuss how we can improve our building environment. I wanted to approach PAC about having one week that is test free. I decided to send the staff an e-mail prior to PAC because I wanted them to understand where I was coming from.

As a principal and educator, I am concerned that all we ever hear about is testing. Our scores are available on-line to anyone who wants to see them. However, our school environment is not available for everyone. The happiness and engagement levels of our students are not available either, so in the end, clicking on a link that says, “See How Your Kids Are Doing” really means “See how your kids are doing in one particular area that took place over a three day period.”

I am fortunate because I work with great staff and awesome kids but I worry that we are only measured by a test and not by our creativity. I want our kids to live and breathe creativity all the time but I need to begin with one week. Just one week to open up new doors for them. One week where without test anxiety. Perhaps we will even outlaw the word test.

No Testing Week

During the week of November 28th through December 2nd our school is not doing any testing of any kind. We are participating in our very own “No Testing Week.” Teachers are not going to give science tests, social studies tests, math quizzes and spelling tests. They will not be able to progress monitor. Our students are going to have a week where they do not have to worry about the pre-test at the beginning of the week or the looming exam at the end of the week.

Instead, we are focusing on doing projects and other creative activities. Our school participates in two Scholastic Book Fairs and the week that brings November and December together is one of the weeks Scholastic will be at our school. Our students will be able to buy books all week long. They will be surrounded by books all week long. They will have extra time to get lost in the wonder of their favorite book all week long. On Friday evening, December 2nd we are having a local children’s author Matt McElligott come to present and read to children and families.

The reasons for doing this are plentiful. In the U.S. we are too focused on testing and I strongly believe the only way to bring back creativity is for principals to give teachers permission to spend time without worrying about data. Good data that informs instruction will always be important but I do not believe we always collect good data. I also believe we are raising a stressed out generation of students who are over-tested and overanalyzed.

To read teachers reactions in the full article, go to:

No Testing Week