Keep Calm and Carry On

The NYS assessments in Math and ELA for grades 3-8 are upon us, just two weeks away. Following are some important reminders for our teachers and students.

1. The state tests are secure, they’re relatively unknown measures imposed by NYSED and you cannot possibly know exactly what will be on the tests. Control what you can control and let everything beyond your control go. There’s no sense worrying about or over-analyzing the content of the tests now.

2.  Relax. Teaching and learning are most successful in a secure, comfortable environment. Students who are terrified about the results and teachers who are conveying their own anxiety to the students aren’t going to do their best.

3. Students—reconcile yourselves to the worst thing that can happen on the test and move on. If you receive a one or a two out of four, it’s not the whole measure of you! It’s how you did on that test on that day. How will we use the information? To figure out what you don’t know yet—and then teach it to you.  If you land in AIS (Academic Intervention Services) it just means there’s something we missed with you that we need to catch up so that you can move forward successfully in the next year’s class content.

4. Students—no matter what anyone has told you, there is no deep dark threat of your “permanent record card” or how this test will affect you for the rest of your life, including college admittance. The truth is that these tests are to keep  us on track so that we all have the same expectations for what our students are learning when—across New York State—so that we know you’re as prepared as any other student when you graduate. That’s why the results are important to us, we want to be the best that we can be—FOR YOU.

4. Teachers—reconcile yourselves to the worst thing that can happen on the test and move on. If your students receive a one or a two out of four, it’s not the whole measure of your teaching! It’s how they did on that test on that day. How will you use the information? To figure out what you need to do better next year. You’ll continue to study the common core curriculum for your content and grade level and determine how you spend your time the next year—how you’ll deliver the content best. Just like every other year of your career, continually self assessing and thinking about your next lesson.

5. Teachers—read the test carefully as your students take it. Every year when I gave my Regents exam I knew exactly which questions, with which content (and there were always one or two), all of my students would struggle with because I hadn’t spent enough time on that concept or taught the vocabulary word they needed. Yes the test is secure and you can’t make a copy but you’re smart teachers—you can identify what you may have missed in your curriculum just by reading the test.

6. It doesn’t do anyone any good to highlight how much harder the curriculum may be than prior years. I distinctly remember a whole week of teaching on a difficult concept when I kept telling my students “you have to study for this, it’s the hardest thing we’ve done all year!” When my students therefore bombed the test and I asked why, they said, “well, you told us it was going to be incredibly hard so why bother preparing?!” Confidence in all that you’ve done together as a class is what’s needed on test day.

We’ve got this! Everyone in the school system has worked hard, just take the tests like any other tests–it’s part of what we do to measure what we’ve mastered and what we need more work on. That’s all. The rest of it, the hype in the media and APPR plan? We’ll figure it out together, as a team, just like we’ve been saying all year. I have confidence in all of you!  So keep calm and carry on.  

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