March 15, 2007

Stop Reading My Shirt and Finish Your Test

Last week I made quick mention about our school's efforts to promote enthusiasm for our state-mandated test. We've had posters, we had a pep rally, and to top off all the excitement, we teachers had a t-shirt contest. Some happy little spirited teacher came up with the challenge and a meager prize and presented it via e-mail the day before the test started. "Hey everyone! Make up the best test-related shirt and wear it to support our kids!"

I read the e-mail a day late (since I ditched school to goof off with my brother who was in town), so I didn't know about it until I arrived at school and saw a few teachers with some fun t-shirts on. It was a little slow that first day, but by the second day of testing, the enthusiasm and creativity were insane. The students couldn't wait to see what crazy, witty things we would print on a t-shirt just to support their testing! You'd be surprised what we teachers can do with a $5 t-shirt and some inkjet T-shirt transfers. The students thought we bought our t-shirts somewhere! By the end of the 2nd day of testing, students were coming up with slogans--many of them twists of well-known advertising campaigns from big companies--that they wanted to see.

They weren't the only ones excited by our t-shirt support. Our principal shared pictures of our shirts at a regional administrators' meeting, while she herself was wearing a nicely done t-shirt that said, "My school was rated high-achieving last year, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" on the front and "I have the smartest students in the district" on the back. Apparently everyone was so amazed that they wanted to know where they could buy t-shirts like ours. She couldn't quite get the point across that our t-shirts were all homemade craft projects!

I have to admit that all this hype for the test has me laughing my patooty off because it's just so ridiculous. But on the other hand, why shouldn't we celebrate our students demonstrating their knowledge for everyone to see? As crazy as all of this has been, all the teachers say that they have seen a difference in attitude for the students while they were taking the test this year. Our students take a lot of tests, and by the time they finally get to the big one that counts for our AYP, they are burned out. It's hard to make them understand how important these tests are because they are really high stakes for us teachers and our school, not the students. It matters not for those 8th grades who are moving on.

I wonder though, if perhaps our attitudes in treating this big test as an event to celebrate has boosted morale and confidence in our students. I suppose we will see when the results come in the fall if our scores go up. We might be able to attribute some of our success--although hardly data driven--to our positive and unusual approaches.

*Update: See my super cool shirt!

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