Cheerleaders, pep bands and free throw contests will be replaced by proctor-monitored quiet classrooms Friday, as students across North Carolina begin taking end-of-grade tests.
The exams, commonly known as EOGs, sometimes cause anxiety for students, who must earn passing grades to be promoted, and for teachers, whose performances are judged partly on the test scores. That was the reason for Thursday’s pep rallies – to calm nerves.
But with the state’s public schools earning letter grades – A to F – and charter schools in danger of being shut down if they don’t measure up, there will still be plenty of anxiety during the EOG season.
Those high stakes have helped build opposition to the exams.
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“There are too many tests, and evidence has mounted that the tests are not helping kids learn,” said Pam Grundy, of Mecklenburg Area Coming Together for Schools. “And because the test results are used in such a high-stakes way, testing warps the curriculum process. We think teachers are teaching to the test.”
Scott Elliott, a board member at Charlotte International School, a charter school in Harrisburg, said teachers there get more accurate results about their performance from other tests. But, he added, “We do our best on the state tests, too.”
Some schools may have a different type of problem – a lack of community volunteers to proctor the tests. Officials at Myers Park and Providence high schools sent out emergency requests to parents in recent days, asking for help.
Keeping order in the classroom is important during the tests, which continue through next week – and into the following week for students who fail to score at least a 3 on a scale of 1 to 4.
“Any disruption is considered a mis-administration of the test, and the entire class has to take it over again,” said Mark Anderson, principal at Crown Point Elementary School in Matthews.
Anderson’s school had cheerleaders, a pep band and the UNC Charlotte mascot, Norm the Niner, on hand for a rally Thursday. “We told students that their behavior has an impact on everyone in the class,” he said.
At Coulwood Middle School in northwest Charlotte, students and staff worked to complete an obstacle course – with an egg walk, a basketball shooting contest and more.
There is one change in state law for the testing process this year. For the first time, students who finish early will be permitted to read a book quietly.
“That’s at least one good step,” Grundy said.