Between playoff games and state exams, are student athletes juggling too many balls?

A parent says playoff games occur at the same time state exams are given. (John Gutierrez/Cox Newspapers.)

A parent sent me a note earlier this week on a testing issue I’d never considered or written about — the overlap of state testing with playoff games in spring sports. I told the mom I planned to share her essay later in the week on the blog.

Interestingly, my son experienced the scenario she described today. His high school tennis team traveled five hours to south Georgia Monday night for a state playoff Tuesday. Because of a serious accident on I-285 that halted traffic for hours, the team bus did not arrive back home until 2:30 a.m. My son and several other players faced a math SLO a few hours later..

I’m unsure what the answer is. Playing a sport is a choice that bring both benefits and burdens. I can remember my brother, a standout high school player who went on to captain a Division 1 college team, getting home from high school games at midnight and staying up all night to study. In college, he did two things: play ball and study.

I understand end-of-the-year school events — sports banquets, award ceremonies, class picnics  — create family stress when combined with testing demands. Schools ought to prune back their April and May events calendars to make the end-of-the-year less frantic.

With that said, here’s the parent’s essay. I am sharing it with her blessing. She offers some good ideas on using other tests to exempt students from some state exams:

The Milestones calendar has come out for my son’s high school.  Milestones finals are held the last week in April and the first week in May. Students will be taking finals three or four weeks before the end of school. Because my son takes two of his courses virtually and the GA Virtual School ends May 5, he will actually have four of his six finals completed by May 5, yet have three more weeks of school.

Early Milestones finals hurt student athletes in playoffs. During those Milestones weeks, students could have two playoff matches a week. Playoffs in my son’s sport do not end until May 8. If the playoff is an away game, students could be traveling in a car for an hour or two, play a couple of hours, and then ride home with a final early the next morning.

Even with the best intentions, students are not getting much if any studying done in a car or busload of boys. If this testing calendar remains the same, the Georgia High School Association may need to move its playoff calendar forward, eliminate regional playoffs for state playoff selection, and just use round robin region results for state playoff selection to shave a week off playoff calendar.

Many students will have AP tests the week following or the same week as Milestones testing. How can they review for AP test with a crazy schedule the two weeks before? It is ridiculous to have 10 days of an improvised schedule with some classes not meeting at all some days and then to have 3 days of finals the last week of school too.

School should allow a minimum ACT or SAT score to substitute for the 9th and 11th grade Lit Milestones and the two Math Milestones. Then students could take their Lit and Math final exams the last three days of school after playoffs and after APs. Students would have multiple chances to take SAT and ACT plus they could pick dates that fit their schedule. If they were an athlete, they could choose a date where they could study in the off season of their sport.

Since Georgia teaches integrated math that incorporates geometry, algebra, and probability, the Milestones tests and math curriculum are often out of sync. If a student takes an accelerated math course, his Milestones test may be based on material he/she took a semester or two ago.

If the student has been studying Trig all semester but the Milestones is mainly algebra, the student may do poorly on a Milestones final because the student does not have time to relearn materials he/she may not have seen for six months or more while keeping up with current topics. This is the third year my son has been in playoffs during Milestones/EOCTs.

I am glad he does not have a Math Milestones this year. He barely passed his Math Milestones/EOCTs even though he had high As in honors courses because the test curriculum and class curriculum were out of sync, and both years he had out-of-county state playoffs the night before the test. Luckily his freshman year the test only counted 15 percent so he still made an A in the class with a 70 on the final as he did not have time to go back and review past year material.

Students take the PSAT in Oct of their freshman, sophomore, and junior years. Between that test and another SAT/ACT test of a student’s choosing, that should be enough for the state of Georgia. If the College Board says a student is ready for college, why does a student have to go through 10 days of testing and messed up schedules for four years? Obviously some students at all schools and many students at other schools may do poorly on SAT and ACT. However, schools where most students do well on PSAT, ACT, or SAT should get waivers from the whole Milestones system of testing.

I assume you may write articles on the Milestones tests in the next week or so (Milestones start next Monday). I do not know if any of the discussions have ever addressed the impact it has on student athletes in spring sports. Most athletes would prefer to play matches during the week after school where their classmates could attend.

Spring playoffs may not seem important, but student athletes may use their sport as a route to college admission and/or scholarship. For many sports, students play on varsity teams during the week and club and/or individual tournaments during the weekend.  If finals are only the last three days of school, students can adjust their training schedule accordingly. However, student athletes can’t forego training or drills for weeks of tests.

 

Reader Comments 0

60 comments
kdbugalpha
kdbugalpha

As others have pointed out, testing is 3 weeks long for EOCT and Milestones, students have a 2 day break and then have their regular exams in non Milestone, non AP courses which means teachers basically have to teach a 18 week course in 14 weeks in the spring.


Athletics and academics dont have to be in  conflict if schedules are know ahead of time.As a parent who has gone with a child on a D1 college visit, the coaches know most of their schedule at the beginning of the semester, and athletes' professors are given the dates the athletes will miss class. If the student athlete will miss a test, the makeup date is scheduled ahead of time or sometimes an athletic advisor may travel with teams to proctor tests or the students can sit for tests with a proctor at the opponent university.  I saw a tweet with a pic of a D1 team that had won a conference champs on a weekend afternoon sitting at 9:30pm that night in a classroom reviewing for finals-no all night celebration for that team. Some teams mainly schedule events on weekends and dont register student athletes for Friday classes so only a handful of classes are missed.


The problem with these Milestones is the schedules are given with a week's notice before the first test. There are inadequate study materials. There is no information from last year's test concerning students' areas of weakness. Many students will rely on Hope for college, and having 20% of their grade decided by a nebulous test is unfair for athletes and nonathletes. Since spring sports are non revenue sports, boys that play for college only receive partial scholarship so Hope is very important to athletes too. Girls can often get full scholarships for nonrevenue spring sports so grades may be slightly less important to female athletes.


Sports teach discipline, bond students to school, teach multitasking, etc. Exercise is good for the brain. It seems like almost every year the tests change or the testing schedule changes so how can coaches and players prepare ahead? Last year all the Milestones at my student's school were held in the am. This year at the school the tests could be am or pm. A student may have exam 4 days in a row, and not have any exams the following week or their exams could be spread out. When exams were held the last 3 days of school, students would have two exams in the am and then get out on a half day schedule to study for the two exams the next day. The first two days of the week were spent on review. Of course all the playoffs were done 2 weeks before. Now with the Milestones, a student may have a full day of school including a tiring 140 min milestone and a playoff game afterwards and another 140 min milestone the next am. Most freshmen-juniors will have two Milestones a year, but if a student takes a course earlier or later, they could have 3 or more Milestones. Seniors usually only have the Economics Milestone but their schedules will be messed up for 2 weeks to accomodate the underclassmen.


GA needs to come up with an alternate list of tests that can sub for Milestones and give to 9th graders and tell them if they get X minimum score on Y test they dont have to take Milestones. They would have 4 years to take and schedule the 7 Milestones. Those alternate tests would be scored by professional graders. There should be an option to take tests in Dec if the player is a spring sport athlete or if the student is taking a lot of AP tests in the spring that could conflict. Even if the tests were on a Saturday in early Dec, that would be better than Milestones, APs, regular exams, playoffs ,etc spread over so many weeks. 



insideview
insideview

@living-in-outdated-ed Disagree totally. I am not knocking sports, I am a big fan, and recognize what sports does for kids. However, it is a personal decision, and kids and parents should consider all the ramifications before THEY make the decision. Testing  should not have to be reinvented because some parent thinks " it's hard"  for  her son. Life is hard, good early lesson. He might actually learn something, like hard work, effort, sacrifice, prioritizing etc...

insideview
insideview

When a student and the parent make the decision to play a sport they take on the additional work that goes along with playing a sport and going to school. No special consideration should be given. This is all a part of the whining , " I am entitled" generation. Hard work and sacrifice is  good for the soul. Get over it.

gapeach101
gapeach101

Of course there is an easy fix here.  Take sports out of public schools. The for profit world will work out the logistics of working around education.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@gapeach101 Sorry to be so blunt, but this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard.    Child development is all about mind, body and spirit. Sports is physical fitness and it teaches many non-cognitive skills.

Starik
Starik

@living-in-outdated-ed @gapeach101 The schools should teach the cognitive skills, period. That's the primary mission, and sports are just entertainment and a distraction from what's important in this century.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Well, why not do something for working students?  I am not talking about students who are working to buy a car (a choice) but students who work in order to help put food on the table.


I, again against the flow, am against students working during high school.  School is their job, or it should be!  There will be many, many years to work after school is over.  But I recognize that in some families high school students contribute to family NEEDS.  Howz about we do something special for them?

Starik
Starik

@Wascatlady About all you can do is take these kids aside and let them know that you know what they're doing, and that you're impressed, and that they're a good kid.

Starik
Starik

This sort of discussion aggravates old wounds with me.  I had a number of teachers in high school, and my kids did later, whose real job was "coach."  We even addressed them as "coach" in class, which was appropriate considering they were, in most cases, not really teachers, since they didn't care about the academic classes they were required to teach and didn't know the subject they were teaching. 


Google "coaches paid over $100,000" in Georgia.  There are apparently 17 of them.  I wonder how many Principals are ex-coaches?  Coaching is a fast track to administration. Why?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Starik Is that "coaches paid over $100,000" mean that they are paid that much out of school funds?  Or is that including a booster supplement?

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

The parent has a point.   Student athletes should not be penalized for playing a sport.  Accommodations should be made so they can represent their school in a playoff competition knowing that they can take their exams at a later date.   Competition matters, especially to kids seeking to achieve athletic excellence and use it as a possible road to college.   Why can't schools get the academic calendar right?   This is common sense, folks, and it's unfortunate that this critical blog has to be used to air complaints that should never have been complaints in the first place!

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@class80olddog @living-in-outdated-ed not backwards - I don't care which way it's done, as long as they align schedules.  This situation was totally avoidable and very sad that a student should be given such stress when they're playing an important playoff game.   It would be the same before a major concert, or choir event, or dance competition.   The fault goes all the way around, but should not be borne by the student.

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

@living-in-outdated-ed If you are of that elite of a level that you are in a play off for a sport or other competition, well my goodness you ought to be able to handle stress.  Are students who aspire for D1 or scholarships in a competitive area - music, theater, dance, etc. not aware what stress is ahead on the university level?  How about the life level? Don't tell me an elite dancer can't handle stress or I'll tell you that same dancer will be waiting tables unable to make it through an audition. I am NO fan at all of this testing era, but I am also not a fan of the "wussification" of our children in this time of - "oh my precious child should not feel any stress."

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@living-in-outdated-ed Student athletes are not penalized.  They are just not given extra favors.  If accommodations are made for athletes, why not band members?  Chorus?  Cheerleading?  Theater?  Other demanding EXTRA curricula's? (Note the capitalization?)


Instead of "athletic excellence" let's go for "academic excellence."  And don't expect/demand extra, favorite treatment!  Someone has to administer and grade those "later date" exams, you know.


When my kids were in high school you could be exam-exempt with high grades and excellent attendance.  I guess with our testing mantra we don't do that anymore.  I recall my younger daughter had to take her exams one year because, although she had an A+ average and excellent attendance, she missed a week of school when her grandmother lay dying out of state.  But she sucked it up, of course, and took them, even though she missed the review.  No special favors requested.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@living-in-outdated-ed @Beach Bound2020 I imagine private schools would be.  No private school can take for long the mad parents.


I'm afraid we just disagree. It would be NICE if they aligned. If they do not, students have to suck it up and soldier on. Life will treat them this same disinterested way, over things far more important than sports or performances.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@living-in-outdated-ed I think you have it backward - competitions should be planned based on testing.  This is the fault of the athletic associations, who should not plan championship games in the final weeks of school.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@Beach Bound2020 @living-in-outdated-ed nobody is wussifying anything.   Just align the damn exams and don't penalize a student who has a major performance or sports competition at the same time!  You all are reading WAY too deep into this.  Such is the extreme rigidity of public schools. I can tell you that private schools would be FAR more accommodating and allow students the opportunity to take the exam at a later date.

gapeach101
gapeach101

"student athletes can’t forego training or drills for weeks of tests."

Heaven forbid.  Let's make sure the inmates are running the prison.

class80olddog
class80olddog

"My son and several other players faced a math SLO a few hours later"  Math SLO?

high-school-teacher
high-school-teacher

The EOCs cannot take place the last week of school because they count 20% of the students' grades, and there is no way they can have them graded in time. I'm quite skeptical that they will be ready this year with three weeks; it will be interesting to see.


I agree that academics takes precedence over athletics. However, the testing craze has gotten out of hand; beginning next Monday, we will have a standardized test or SLO administered every day until the last day of school. Some of these tests overlap, requiring that students make up tests later. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@high-school-teacher "beginning next Monday, we will have a standardized test or SLO administered every day until the last day of school."  Sorry, I am having a hard time visualizing this - how many days do you have left in the school year?  How many tests are there to take?  How many classes does a student have?

high-school-teacher
high-school-teacher

@class80olddog Not all students will test each day, but next week, EOCs begin: there is one test every morning from April 25 to May 6. Also, AP Exams begin May 2 and last until May 12. SLOs, student learning objectives, begin on May 9 and last through May 20 (the last day of school). Classes that don't have EOCs must administer SLOs (with a few exceptions).


I have two junior classes in the morning, so I am administering the EOCs Monday-Wednesday when juniors take American Lit and American History. My one sophomore class will have a test on Friday, meaning that I will see my sophomores only 1 day next week. That's the other problem with testing; instruction virtually stops.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@high-school-teacher @class80olddog Sorry, I am having a little problem with the math.  Does a test take more than one period, even with block schedules?  Two junior classes would be two days, right?  Does the junior EOCT mean you cannot teach the sophomore class?  Why would you only see the sophomore class once in a five-day week if you gave three tests?

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

@class80olddog Because old dog (and you are definitely showing your age here - no offense) EOCs/SLOs take at minimum two days, three for the ELA test. A junior on a block has 8 classes, which makes for 16 plus class periods of testing, plus only certain tests may be given on certain days as per the state.  Hence the whole school schedule changes and it's actually easy to go over 5 days without seeing a class. Then overlap that with AP testing and makeups for when they conflict and yep that's right - your high school student is literally spending the remainder of the year testing every single day. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Beach Bound2020 @class80olddog So excuse my age and lack of knowledge.  If an EOCT takes two days to complete, is the test in two sections - one to be completed on one day and one on the next?  Or is it all one section and a student can look at the test on the first day, then look up answers that evening and then change answers the second day?  You say a junior on block schedule has 8 classes - yes - in two semesters.  So the EOCT at the end of the year tests the first semester AND the second semester?  Inquiring minds want to understand.

taylor48
taylor48

@class80olddog @Beach Bound2020 I'm not familiar with HS EOC's, but I would assume it's similar to Milestones.  Our ELA was given in two parts, since each part was a total of 2+ hours.  That's like it was for the old CRCT as well.  Students are explicitly instructed to not go back to previous sections, and teachers can be written up by the Professional Standards Commission if they fail to notice or prevent it.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@taylor48 @class80olddog @Beach Bound2020 Yes, I am sure that telling them not to will prevent them from doing so.  Also, why would teachers want to catch them, since they look better if they let the student cheat.  This sounds like a typical screwed- up educational FUBAR.  Why not just make the test in two physical parts and only give the students one at a time?  Make too much sense?

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

@class80olddog @taylor48 @Beach Bound2020 The tests are administered online and do not allow a student to go back to the previous day's section.  Very few schools are still using paper and pencil tests on the HS level. In that same vain, students cannot see the next section before hand either.  For the printed copies sections are in different booklets. And if a HS is on an A/B block that student carries 8 classes all year long because they meet every other day, hence the 16 plus tests they are subjected to, not all EOCs, but SLOs, AP etc.  It's a mess.

gapeach101
gapeach101

@class80olddog @Beach Bound2020 @taylor48 Something else to think about.  In our school, the juniors may be subject to a particular test, but the whole school gets locked down during the test time to avoid noise in the hallway. Depending upon the teacher,  education can pretty much comes to a stand

still.

high-school-teacher
high-school-teacher

@class80olddog I have to administer the test to juniors. On the first day, students take ELA Sections 1 and 2, which are 75 minutes each. Add a break in between and time to disseminate materials and take up test materials, and that's 3 hours. The math tests are 85 minutes per section, so that will last more than 3 hours. We are not on a block schedule but on a 7 period day (classes are 52 minutes). My 2nd period class is a sophomore class. Because I teach more juniors, I am giving the test. Hence, I won't see my 2nd period when I give the test.   I will see my afternoon classes but not my morning classes.

southerntchr
southerntchr

Back when I was in high school in the 80s, there was something called Time on Task - no instructional time lost to club conventions and sports.  Today, there is ENTIRELY too much class time lost to sports events and field trips that are not even related to the classes being missed.  I have students who have already been on 7-8 field trips this semester (block schedule), and that does not include the golf tournaments that take two days of class. Ridiculous!  Choices, as Wascatlady says.  You can not always be involved in everything, and accommodations should not be made because you choose to overextend.  The last priority is school these days.  And parents whining about it just proves that point.  Testing is a part of life.  

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

While I agree that the students get a "Lesson in Life" in dealing with the challenge of high-stakes athletic and academic scheduling (playoffs in sports vs. EOCT, AP and/or Milestone testing in the classroom), that gives the student the incentive to learn to plan ahead and to figure out how to maximize their time.  


But, I totally agree that the state is blind when it comes to figuring out better solutions than just "test everyone."   Allowing the substitution of a high score on ACT or SAT subject testing to replace the state-regulated test would benefit students AND lower the cost to the state (administering fewer tests = lower costs). Math course testing will always be an issue with Georgia's integrated math curriculum, but at least we could take the burden off the students who ARE achieving in other subjects.  


PS: My son, nieces and nephews all played multiple varsity sports, and their teams frequently went to state championship levels, travelling all over the state. They maximized their time by pulling out workbooks, class notes, review sheets and even Khan Academy videos while on buses or carpool. It works: a high school salutatorian & Ivy League student, two others had full athletic scholarships at highly-competitive academic schools, another was a summa cum laude graduate from her university.  Total state championships: 17.  And they are well-prepared for dealing with a lifetime of 'multiple priorities' as a result.

Charlotte Manning Harrell
Charlotte Manning Harrell

All of the students are juggling too many balls, either sports, work, music, art , rest and relaxation everything competes with exams.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Your son is getting a Lesson in Life:  As an adult he will have lots of competing wants/needs/responsibilities.  College will also be a busy time, with allocating time for the many activities key.  Sports are not everything.


My kids were super-involved in high school but had to balance their responsibilities.  Sometimes it was very, very demanding, and sometimes one thing or another suffered (like sleep).   They learned to not put off academics, and to learn to MASTERY so there was little review before the big exams.  It certainly helped them in college, and so far in their adult lives.


I had wondered what systems who stayed with integrated math would do about lack of sync with Milestones.  Sounds like the state did not address this?


As to your remark about studying on the bus: A sponsor told me, with some wonder, about my younger daughter coming back from a basketball game (she was a cheerleader).   She had a big test the next day, and spent the trip home writing, in the fog on the windows of the bus, the names of countries and their capitals!  I have laughed often about that mental picture.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady


"Your son is getting a Lesson in Life:  As an adult he will have lots of competing wants/needs/responsibilities"


Couldn't agree more.Kids and parents have to prioritize whats truly important-academics or extracurricular activities.They'll have exams in college where the professor is only vaguely aware that the school participates in athletics and won't accept a busy lifestyle as any kind of excuse.


As an exercise in undermining testing,this is pretty weak beer.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Astropig @Wascatlady 

 In fact, I can remember that (before I retired) I regularly got notes from my university's Athletic Director asking me to sign  that players were keeping up with their classwork and assignments.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@Wascatlady Have to disagree a wee bit here.  I was a D1 athlete, and even colleges schedule finals around athletic schedules.   For Ivy League baseball, we ended the season, then took finals, then played in the NCAA Tourney if we were fortunate to win our conference.  Don't blame this on the student.   They learn how to balance, but academic schedules and educators should be flexible.   This was quite avoidable.

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @Astropig @Wascatlady


AstroWife and I both attended college on athletic schollys.That's where I met her.We did lots of essays and other homework while bouncing along the dusty back roads of the south in ancient buses because we knew that the profs couldn't give a toss what we did outside their class.


I'd like to also add here that band members have a hard row to hoe also.They spend many hours practicing,marching,attending competitions and raising money.While not considered athletes as we understand it,they are part of the same sports/academic dynamic.What some of them accomplish (without whining about it) is truly amazing.