Today was one of the toughest teaching days of the year.
Typically I work with a well-crafted schedule that provides students with a positive choreography of teaching/learning modalities during the week. This pattern lends itself to happy, productive days of learning. The pattern also includes a fair number of supports with respect to specialist teachers and assistants therefore students' needs are met with care.
This week teachers were pulled in all directions in order to provide the supports necessary to administer the MCAS tests, and that meant changes in the support and specialist schedules. Hence it's been a week with fewer supports and less variety. It's also been a week where students' patterns have changed, and yes, there's been a bit more stress since everyone feels the test pressure.
What's the answer?
To run schools well you need the kind of well-crafted schedule with supports that we typically have at our school. And, to give the tests legally and responsibly you also need a tremendous amount of personnel since many students take the tests with special accommodations. Hence to teach well and give the tests well on the same day requires more staffing than a school typically has.
One teacher suggested that classes not taking the tests schedule field trips on those days. That's a good idea particularly for grade levels that don't take the tests. It's difficult for grades that take the tests as teachers like to give that last minute review of the concepts taught throughout the year. Another possibility would be to just have those students taking the tests come to school that day and let the other students have a day off--that would take care of the staffing problems, but it would also create significant issues for families who rely on school to care for their children each day.
It's a difficult issue that I don't have the answer for. In fact, every day this week I've tried a different solution to keep my class engaged, on track and happy, yet every day we've been challenged by students who really need the supports or specialist activities. I'll keep thinking about a better way, and if you have the answer, please let me know. A good school is similar to a complex jigsaw puzzle-many pieces that fit together to meet many needs in optimal ways. The tests pose a challenge to this delicate balance.