Scheduling Vacations, Tests Around State Exams? Bad Idea

Bernadette Verna is worried about the upcoming state English Language Arts exam this fall. Not because her students – sixth graders at the Notre Dame Elementary School, in New York – are not ready, but because due to the scheduling, they might not be there to take it, the Utica Observer-Dispatch reports.

Verna is unhappy that this year’s test, which is taken over two weeks, is scheduled to begin right after the end of the school’s spring break. Verna isn’t worried that a week away from classes will effect the kids’ preparedness, simply that if the parents decide to extend their vacation, as some occasionally do, the students will then miss the exam and will have to retake it.

Verna isn’t the only one who is concerned with the schedule. Vince Condro, assistant superintendent at the New Hartford school feels that there should be a few days of adjustment to allow students just coming back from vacation to get back into the groove of things.

“The (grades) 3 through 8 tests start right after the April break, as soon as we come back,” Condro said. “That certainly will have some impact on the test and the students.”

In responding to the complaints, Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn explains that since schools in the state vary the timing of their spring vacation, it would have been impossible to schedule the test without inconveniencing somebody. Simultaneous testing is part of the state’s plan to beef up testing security and avoid another cheating scandal like those currently blowing up around the country.

Still, timing of exams is critical, and a bad schedule can have an impact on the results. Palm Beach Post reports that a scheduling change in Florida has moved the Comprehensive English Language Learning Assessment before the general state achievement exam known as FCAT. This means that students at schools like the South Grade Elementary School in Lake Worth, where a large percentage of the student body is learning English as a second language, now can’t fully focus on the all-important FCAT.

South Grade Principal Mike Riley called the new schedule “a distraction.” He is convinced that having to focus on CELLA will mean kids will score lower on the FCAT.

“The district always has FCAT blackout dates,” Riley said. “The idea behind that is, all you do is FCAT. There’s nothing else but that. That’s what we want.”