Fulton student: Revise testing schedule so we’re not watching movies

(Mikki K. Harris/AJC STAFF)

Here is a new piece by Fulton County high school student Andrew Liang. He is a former reporter for the Scholastic News Kids Press and has appeared as an education commentator on the Today Show, CNN, and MSNBC. You can read earlier Get Schooled essays by him here and here.

By Andrew Liang

Last Thursday, I sat for my final Advanced Placement Exam of the year. Since all of my academic classes are AP courses, I am effectively finished with the school year, even though it does not officially end until Memorial Day weekend.

I took four AP classes as a high school junior: AP US History, AP English Language, AP Physics, and AP Statistics. Although my course load is relatively rigorous, it is not uncommon for juniors to have a majority of AP classes on their schedule. In fact, in many subjects, we have only two course options: the AP class or the on-level class. Students taking US History, English, and Physics are left to choose between a college-level course and the minimal high school one. There is no in-between option. So it is not surprising that many students looking for a bit of rigor and critical thinking in their junior year opt for the AP classes. I did the same.

These AP classes are designed to prepare students for the namesake College Board exams in May, which provide high school students with the opportunity to earn college credit if they score well. The courses encourage students to look beyond the usual state standards and to think for themselves; for instance, AP US History asks students to interpret primary documents in the context of their historical periods and AP English Language invites students to examine rhetorical strategies and arguments behind famous works.

Because these courses are so demanding and cover such broad topics (like the entirety of US history from Columbus to the present day), students and teachers work at a fast pace throughout the year to complete their curriculums. Most teachers finish teaching new material with only a few days to spare before the Georgia Milestones in late April and AP Exams in early May.

Then come three weeks of relentless testing. In AP Physics and AP Statistics, I took two end-of-course tests: the teacher-made final exam and the actual AP exam. In classes with Milestones tests like AP US History, I had to take three.

Despite the fact that their courses finish all testing in early May, AP teachers are still perplexingly required to give assessments during the last week of school. This last week is somewhat ironically termed “final exam week,” even when most juniors and seniors have already taken their actual final exams before the AP tests. Usually, these final week tests come in the form of projects, or simple tests, to fulfill this pointless requirement.

With nothing new on their curriculums to cover for two weeks, many teachers turn to showing movies related to their subjects. As nearly all of my classes are AP courses, I will be watching plenty of movies until the school year ends. So will many of my sophomore and junior classmates, and nearly all of my senior ones.

Now don’t get me wrong; I love movies, and would even consider myself somewhat of a film buff. But if AP students are only in school to watch movies for 10 days, we are probably seeing a lack of planning by the school system and by standardized testing boards.

These two weeks would be invaluable if placed before the exam season; they would allow students extra time to study and provide teachers with much-needed review time. Used for timed-essay practice and feedback, mock multiple choice exams, and concept reviews, these two weeks would undoubtedly leave students better prepared and likely improve standardized testing scores.

However, I realize the difficulty of beginning the school year two weeks earlier. The idea of a school year that starts in late July and ends in early May would likely face significant opposition from parents who believe that the existing one already begins too early.

A better solution is to shift the dates of standardized tests. Instead of placing Milestones in April, the state should administer them closer to the end of the school year, allowing teachers and students to take advantage of nearly a month of extra instruction time.

In the same way, the College Board should consider administering its AP Exams at the end of May, to give teachers and students enough time to comprehensively and comfortably cover college-level curriculums. Such a shift would also significantly reduce student stress and workloads throughout the school year, and give us ample time to review concepts after the course material has been covered.

Students and teachers work very hard to do their best in preparing for a plethora of standardized testing. School systems and testing boards need to be doing the same in providing classrooms with the tools and the time they need to improve and succeed. A revised testing schedule is a great place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

44 comments
Kira Willis
Kira Willis

But if we teach hard, there will be complaints. The tests are long; kids need a break. What say we revise it so kids who aren't tested come to school later? Then classes can commence with fresh minds. Yes, the buses could accommodate for every level.

MizAnn Joyland
MizAnn Joyland

Not in my school. We are readimg an assigned novel and preparing for final exams.

Jennifer Hall
Jennifer Hall

Not in our elementary school. We are still teaching, working on fun projects that support learning, and engaging kids! Cherokee County Schools rock!

Tim Langan
Tim Langan

PS - Any extra time at the end of the year could be dedicated to typing classes. One of the most useful classes I took in high school...or some home ec type classes about check books, interest, credit (and the pitfalls of credit cards etc).

Nailah L. Worthams
Nailah L. Worthams

I agree. Typing was one of the most useful and beneficial things I learned my senior year of school.

Tim Langan
Tim Langan

My kids in middle and high school (6th, 8th, 10th grade) have finals exams for most their classes this week and next. No movie watching going on except in a couple select classes (now when they were in elementary school, the last week & half was like going to camp!)

Regel Jackson
Regel Jackson

Most teachers that I've known would agree that testing should be moved to later in the school year. Those same teachers also teach through the end of the last full week of school and don't just show movies. This editorial was written by a high school upper class man taking AP courses. Once the exams are done, that course is effectively over by its very nature and definition. The author says as much.

Kira Willis
Kira Willis

But how would Kelly Services get them graded in time to send back before final grades are due?

Dana Sulecki Crawford
Dana Sulecki Crawford

Teachers teach until state testing and once that is over so are they. It's a waste!!

TeachSS
TeachSS

GA SB364 states that for 2017-2018, end of year testing should only take the place the last two weeks of school. Hopefully, this will help, if local boards heed their advice.


Angela Battaglia Dean
Angela Battaglia Dean

Testing is a huge scheduling nightmare. Extended times on Milestones that go beyond what we did with EOCTs or even what we now do with SLOs for non Milestone classes wreck havoc on the school day. I don't believe there is research out there that states longer assessments are more valid, but for some reason with the implementation of the new standards, the testing length grew. I'm with this kid-I'm also a proponent for these to take place during allotted exam days and only take an hour and a half start to finish.

Lexie Kennedy Clutter
Lexie Kennedy Clutter

My school tested the week of April 18th and we STILL haven't gotten ours back. I thought it was supposed to be a two week turnaround. Was I wrong?

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

Wow - this young man is a truly inspirational.  I do believe every teacher in the world would love to have students like him wanting to work each day, every day.  Alas, the problem I see here has nothing to do with the standardized test schedules, especially for AP as they have to take into account the entire nation when scheduling dates, but rather with his teachers.  There is always more to learn - lifelong learning is the best approach to success.  Why isn't someone holding his teachers accountable for designing year end learning experiences that are enriching, exciting and allow for students to apply the learning from the year?


Andrew, I would not blame you for feeling hesitant in asking, but I'd love for you to ask your teachers or principal about this and let us know what they say.  And if nothing else, see if you can be excused from the movie to go to the media center and do some independent research.  I wish you the best, you seem like a gem.

Page Lassiter
Page Lassiter

The later the Milestones the greater the chance that the scores won't come back until the school year is finished.

heyteacher
heyteacher

The testing season is a HUGE challenge.  Half of my classes are absent on any given day for testing, and it's never an entire class (or the same students). We are supposed to keep students in the rooms and quiet (because other students are testing) but since you only have half a class it's virtually impossible to assign anything meaningful.  We can't access the internet (because of testing) so doing any kind of end of the year research project or report is impossible. As an English teacher, I hand my kids a novel to read and discuss the assigned reading with whoever might show up that day --I'd love to do some kind of hands on experience or elective class but the logistics of that in a large high school would be problematic. Finally, quite a few teachers are showing movies because they are pulled to test students so there is a sub in the regular classroom -- nothing you give a sub to do in May is going to get done so keeping the non-testers in the room with a movie is often the only solution. 

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

at my son's school, the time after the AP tests and milestone tests is used to advance students into next year's topics. For example, the AP Chem students will cover the first couple of weeks of AP Physics ... while the AP US History moves into the first weeks of European history.  This helps the teacher have a few extra days to cover material during the following school year.

Conversely, why don't the kids come up with in-school service projects that could be done during the class time? Making blankets for homeless, or similar easy-craft projects, might be a way to make the most of these hours.

Starik
Starik

Asian kids are wonderful.  I do hope we'll keep up to date with this kid, as in where he winds up for college. 

JFlem1988
JFlem1988

Loved reading your article, Andrew.  I'm glad you're passionate about learning more and using your time in school well.  If you don't have any luck shifting testing schedules quickly, I would like to suggest that you see ahead to next year and make some proposals to your new AP teachers in the fall.  You and your classmates could offer to take charge of some other late May activities that relate to the topic at hand but don't fit into exam prep.  For example, in English, you could host a paperback book swap and invite faculty to participate.  Each of you could advocate briefly for books you loved. In my subject (Latin), we might look at art that or read something together at sight (no preparation involved) that made us curious.  In fact, the students could build a list of topics that pop up through the year and rotate on facilitating.


You sound like the kind of student who could come up with a host of ideas.  


Meanwhile, stay passionate about chances to improve the learning experience for all. Indeed, standardized tests, even those like AP that offer opportunities, and cookie cutter calendars can be confining to the truly creative learner. I wish you luck in your quest!

Johnny Knight
Johnny Knight

Wasting TAXPAYERS MONEY but we had to furlough teachers not that long ago. Socialist Run Government Public schools SUX get your kids out.

Michael Dillinger
Michael Dillinger

Well I would disagree with you, but you are making one hell of a case why this may have some truth to it.

sahm2girls
sahm2girls

While this article was well written, it does present a limited point of view.  Just his class, and the classes of his peers.  He needs to consider the entire student body covered by this standardized testing program.  The testing cannot be moved closer to the end of the year. The results of those tests are needed before the school year ends, and the state needs time to collect the tests, score them, and return the results to the schools. In some cases, the scores may mean the student needs summer school. The students (and parents) need that information ASAP, as they may need to change vacation plans, or find a way to pay for those classes. In some grades, those tests determine whether the student goes on to the next grade.  Students who don't pass need to know before the end of the year, especially before records are send off to another school (such as 5th graders moving on middle school, or not - if they don't pass)

Same for the college boards.  Some colleges have already started fall registration. Students attending those schools need to already know the results from their AP tests so they may register for the right classes.

Also, the state and their standardized testing schedule is not to blame for the teachers' lack of lesson plans for the last ten days of school. Why is the teacher's final exam given so early? Do they not have the ability to schedule that for the last day?  Why can the teacher not present new material? Surely no one thinks that the only valuable material is the minimum required for the standardized tests. This is especially true for the advanced classes. This time could be used to present additional topics related to the class, or to dig deeper into topics covered only briefly before. Perhaps the students could prepare and present projects that educate their peers on things related to, but not covered in class. This would expand the educational experience for everyone.

Once this young man looks at the problem from angles other than his own, perhaps he could brainstorm solutions to this problem other than moving the testing schedule and forcing everyone else to accommodate his preferences. Or perhaps he could focus his efforts on eliminating the standardized testing, which is a rant I'll save for another day.


dg417s
dg417s

@sahm2girls AP scores don't come out until July - the "reading" is in mid to late June

JFlem1988
JFlem1988

@sahm2girls While Milestones are used for promotion/retention etc., AP exams get graded by teams of teachers during scheduled weeks in the summer. They have essay and short answer parts that take time and experienced teams of faculty to score. Results some out in early July. It's probably the high schools themselves who'd struggle to administer AP exams at the same time as on-level end of course exams AND graduation.


I just realized that you and I had the same thoughts about the class still exploring topics after the AP exam -- total agreement!!! Let's hope Andrew's teachers get a chance to read his ideas here.

Kellie Nicole
Kellie Nicole

He thinks he has it bad. Most schools I know in the New England area are still going in mid June, they have a month and a half after the AP exams to watch movies \U0001f62c

Robbie Rainer
Robbie Rainer

That's because they don't start until after Labor Day. They should start school sooner.

Kellie Nicole
Kellie Nicole

The district I went to all my life started the last week of August. And actually it's because traditionally schools up there don't have air conditioning (more may have installed them but we did have a few days of canceled school for heat back in my day, kind of like schools here who may cancel for cold) and the first two weeks of August can be wicked hot.

kaelyn
kaelyn

My kids also complain about the last two weeks being filled with movies. I don't know if the testing schedule is to blame or if other forces are responsible. Regardless of the cause, kudos to this young man for addressing what he feels is an important issue. We should encourage young people to voice their opinions more.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@kaelyn I agree. This kid is clearly a top student; he wants to learn. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I might add, at the elementary level, our teachers use the after-testing time for exploration and enrichment of subjects there is no time for during the ante testing period.  There is so much more in the world that we are NOT getting time to teach about, that broaden student lives.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Think about states up North, who attend well into June due to an after Labor Day start.  What do they do?  How do you match up APs and other standardized, national tests in a country with such different schedules?


Thank goodness we don't still have "cotton-picking schools."  When I moved up North to Alabama, that schedule was being eased out.  It revolved around picking, chopping, and planting cotton.

JR47
JR47

What an irritating and naive viewpoint and a waste of reader space. Young man, I know you live in a world that caters to your every need and you have never had to be patient or understanding to anyone but yourself and of course you get a trophy for simply showing up. But let me school you for a moment. There are reasons that tests have to be taken when they do. Simply starting school earlier will not change anything. Did you know that you are not the only student in your class? Did you know that you are not the only student in the state of GA? Or better, that you are not the only student in the world? Did you know it takes time to grade and score? Did you know that gives you actually the time to dispute and discuss? Or would you rather we just let you take your "AP" exams and then give you a trophy for simply taking it. Now I'm sorry your time is being wasted watching movies, the way my time is wasting having to school you on the logistics of testing, grading, and time. I appreciate your need to brag about all your AP tests and what a waste of time you are having watching movies. How about this. Why don't you discuss with your teacher about wasting your time? Or would that be way to uncomfortable, maybe you could hide behind social media and send him/her an antonymous email? The problem isn't the scheduling of testing, the problem is the activities planned after testing to continue education. Suck it up man, what are you going to do when you get a job and you feel your "time is being wasted?" Hopefully Maureen will let you blog about that someday. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@JR47 I know it will require actual thought, but instead of attacking the author or constantly criticizing the blogmeister, ADDRESS THE TOPIC.

Here's_to_Blue
Here's_to_Blue

@JR47 Did we read the same essay?  My overall take is that he was calling for more planning, more organization.  Such vitriol for so early in the morning!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@JR47 For definition of wasted space, see your diatribe, above.

Donna Byram Moore
Donna Byram Moore

Scores are beginning to come in for Milestones, and most are as bad as expected. Students from remedial to gifted have lower test scores in some areas.

Natasha Stark
Natasha Stark

The testing schedule is absolutely insane. They schedule the tests for immediately after spring break, then send home (1) a cheery letter to parents about how to help your child do his/her best that includes helping them relax and not stress about the test; and (2) a mountain of test prep work and assignments that we have to somehow convince a child who gets no time to play and relax during the school year to complete when s/he is supposed to be "relaxing" and "not stressing" about the test. Never mind that many of us use spring break as an actual spring break and take off work to take our kids on a much needed vacation. Because nothing brings us more joy and happiness than trying to convince a burnt out teen who wants nothing more to eat, sleep, and swim to do homework and test prep before/after we come from the beach we drove 8 hours to get to down in FL.

Dan Solenday
Dan Solenday

The article was well-written. The college board is in a tough spot. To get the scores back to the students by approximately July 4, the tests must be administered the first 2 weeks of May. Having said that as a teacher, I agree with the writer. It would be ideal if the exams were administered the final 2 weeks of May.

Tom Green
Tom Green

Sorry, it's not about what's best for the students and teachers.