The rush to finish testing by lunchtime has undone more passing test scores than any other year-end test activity. Although there is no time limit for either the SBAC or the PARCC tests, many teachers hate to drag testing out, so they essentially set a time limit on their students that is enforced by subtle rushing techniques.
It’s OK for an all-day test to take all day
Do you want the maximum number of your students to pass the test? Yes? I thought so. So here’s your daily testing mantra:
No child will be left behind the class or feel punished in any way for taking the time they need to be successful.
A child who feels pressured to finish will rush his answers and his test scores will naturally suffer, so your job is to remove all sense of test rushing from every individual child. How?
You should always plan on testing for the entire day and be mentally and physical prepared for that. Never plan a critical, must-get-done activity or lesson for the same day as testing. Remove this pressure from yourself so that you can remove the pressure to stick to your schedule from your students.
The first step in accomplishing this state of Zen is proper preparation before the test starts.
What students bring to the testing room
Here’s the packing list for a test. Each student must have:
- Two high-interest books to read
- Work they would like to complete or continue working on
- Plain paper to write or doodle on
They can set these items below their seats on the floor to get them out of the way.
Keep in mind that whatever students have to work on while other students are still testing should not be a distraction to others in any way; it cannot be too “flashy.” For example, doodling with one of the testing pencils is fine, but drawing in color with markers would be way too tempting – meaning that other kids will want to finish so they can also draw if they see a packet of markers in use.
Setting early-finisher expectations
Set expectations about what students should do when they are done with all of the test questions so there are no questions about it:
“When you think you are finished, here’s what to do. First, check every answer before doing your final submission (or handing in your test booklet) using the process you’ve learned. Then show respect to the other students by reading or working quietly in your seat.”
It’s very important to use this “early finisher” protocol for all testing in your classroom all year long so students do this habitually. Hopefully, you have been setting expectations about how to check test answers all year, so they should know the drill.
Handling lunch and lunch recess
Go to lunch and lunch recess as if it is a break. Remind students that talking about testing is off limits. You should also share that it is highly unlikely for them to have the exact same test anyway.
When you come back into the testing room, remind students about testing procedures and being respectful of each other, then get back to it. Use your testing protocols as a guide.
Handling other recesses
You don’t go to a non-lunch recess if students are still testing. Just tell your students this in advance so there are no complaints. If it is part of your classroom routine for children to demonstrate respectful behavior, there won’t be any issues.
After testing, thank students for being so respectful and surprise them with an extra, celebratory recess if possible the next day.
Handling extreme stragglers
“Fine, I get it, don’t rush anyone. But what if there are just two kids left testing after four hours…or just one? Surely we don’t put everything on hold just for them. That doesn’t seem fair!”
OK. I’m going to have to repeat the mantra again:
I other words, if one or two students are still testing, then the entire classroom is still testing. Each student must get the same optimum testing environment. Students understand that kids are all different and will finish at different times. If you test this way in the classroom for all assessments, then students will happily comply because they know the routine. This is why they bring so much to read or work on.
I have had a student not finish until five minutes after the bell rang at the end of the day. The entire class happily sat with her in solidarity. I was a teary mess at this display of teamwork, and with great pride we left the building together.