Today Matters » Celebrate Testing Season

Celebrate Testing Season

February 2, 2018
Did I read that right? Oh yes, the testing season is something to celebrate…if the data extracted from the tests our students are taking is used to help make important decisions about improving the education we provide.
Still, celebrate? According to, a test is “something (such as a series of questions or exercises) for measuring a skill, knowledge, intelligence, capacities, or aptitude of an individual or group.” That’s all well and good, but from a child’s perspective, a test can be stressful, time-consuming, and it’s hard for them to see the bigger picture. How is this one test possibly going to change my life? From a parent’s perspective, tests can also be stressful, in the preparation, in the soothing of our children’s nerves, and in understanding that outcomes of tests may change their child’s educational trajectory. From a teacher’s perspective, testing can be stressful in a different way: Have I prepared my students well enough? How will I encourage and support my students throughout the process of testing? What will I do with the information derived from these tests; for individual students and my classroom as a whole? If you think back to when you were in elementary school, if given the option of going out for recess or taking a state- or federally-mandated test, the concept of “celebration” could be more easily linked to fresh air, playing games, and running around.
Regardless of whether we dread or celebrate tests, the 2018 testing season is upon us. And, there truly is power in data. Not just the facts and figures. But what we — as educators — do with this data. District 142 celebrates any opportunity to learn and grow and improve our students’ educational experiences. Tests are one way to challenge us to stretch our own thinking regarding testing and expand our usage of data. We think of it as being data-informed about our students, not data-driven, and there is a profound difference between the two.
District 142 embraces the importance of these tests and the data that can be gleaned from them. When taking a close look at all of the data available, there is one powerful statement that sums up the data’s importance: When we drill down to the individual student, the data tells us what it’s like to be THAT student in our district. Student growth begins with one student at a time. When considering all students, the data tells a larger story about the learning occurring within our district as a whole.
A quotation from James Plucker states, “There is a new reality that we need to embrace, and that is ‘most students perform above or below grade level, rather than on it.'” If this statement is true, it has deep ramifications for what and how we teach. It actually leads us into a real conversation about teaching and learning, and further, providing a relevant education for the students we serve. It’s important that we get this right, for their sake. Testing is one avenue to get there. The valuable information from testing data brings forward conversations about grading, seating, technology, efficiency, scheduling, course offerings, acceleration, and more. Having honest dialogue in the right venues is critically important so that we can sharpen our ideas and provide an education that hits the mark.
As we gather and examine data — the stories of each of our children in this district — we steadfastly move forward with the goal of ensuring each student is valued, thoughtfully considered, and educated to their fullest potential.