TESTS OFTEN JUST WASTE TIME (By the Numbers)
By, Noble Newman
How much time do we waste testing our students often for no other purpose than to log a grade? Simply, here are the numbers and how I see it.
First, Let’s look at…
Let’s assume this is a typical 10th grade schedule.
English/L.A. 1 credit 2.5 hours/wk
Social Studies 1 credit 2.5 hours/wk
Math 1 credit 2.5 hours/wk
Science 1 credit 2.5 hours/wk
P.E. .5 credits 1.5 hours/wk (Taken out if you participate in a sport)
Health .5 credits 1.5 hours/wk
Foreign Language 1 credit 2.5 hours/wk
Art/Music 1 credit 2.5 hours/wk
Total: 18 hours per week IN classes (this is an average of 3 hours and 36 minutes per day IN class)
Now, a typical school day is about 7 hours which amounts to 35 hours per week.
Take out 1 hour for lunch each weekday, and you are left with 6 hours a day or 30 hours a week.
Therefore, a student has 12 out of these 30 hours “free” each week while actually in the school. This amounts to 2 hours and 24 minutes OUT of class per DAY and that’s AFTER taking out lunch!
This means that 40% of their time at school… is OUT of class (any class)!
Does this already seem a bit ridiculous?
Ok, now let’s add in…
Let’s take the first class on this student’s schedule (English) and meet 5 times a week.
That’s 30 minutes a day for English class.
The student syllabus states that there is a 15 minute quiz each week to assess learning.
There is also a 30 minute test at the end of an entire month to assess long term understanding and retention.
Sound familiar? Seem fair?
That comes out to be 1 hour and 15 minutes of testing a month…. Out of the total 10 hours of class per month (12.5% of instructional time with the teacher given up for testing)!
Oh, Wait! What about reviewing the answers to the quizzes/tests?
What would be a fair amount of time to review? 5 minutes for quizzes and 15 minutes for tests?
Well, that is another 5% of instructional time taken out for a total of 17.5% of monthly instructional time dedicated to testing!
Did I forget to include class time to study or work on projects and papers? Yeah… let’s not even go there.
NOW HERE’S THE KICKER
IF these tests result in a Grade Only… THAT IS RIDICULOUS and is A WASTE OF TIME.
WHAT A WASTE OF TIME (A Review so Far)
35 hours of school per week (6 hours of school per day)
*Take out an hour for Lunch Each Day* (30 hours of school per week and 5 hours per day)
18 hours per week IN CLASS (avg. 3 hours 36 minutes per day) (60% of school time)
12 hours per week OUT OF CLASS (avg. 2 hours 24 mins per day) (40%of school time)
Of the 18 hours of class time per week (avg. 3.6 hours of class time per day
A typical assessment schedule with periodic quizzes and 1 short monthly test = 12.5% of that time testing
If you at least briefly review the assessments for some clarity = 17.5% of that time is testing and reviewing those assessments
SO, HOW CAN A TEACHER/SCHOOL MAKE THIS BETTER?
A few suggestions:
- Quizzes should only DRIVE INSTRUCTION
- Teachers should use the information found on exam results to address any problems in which a significant percentage of students failed to understand by RETEACHING or CLARIFYING it.
- If it is important enough to have on a quiz, it is important enough to ensure understanding BEFORE moving on. Otherwise, why was is assessed in the first place?
- Future classes should be guided by the quizzes from gauging important information, to conceptual understanding, to what kind of learners are in the classroom.
- Quizzes and tests should be about deeper understanding or application. NOT rote memorization.
- It stems from the same ridiculous notion that assigning 100 math problems to do in a night is any better than 20. If a student knows the material, that student is just wasting time doing the problems. If a student doesn’t know the material, that student is just wasting time doing the problems, wrong.
- If you are testing memorization, tell students what is on the quiz and have them memorize it (not random problems). If it is about a concept, test their understanding in a DIFFERENT WAY!
- Again, if it is important enough to have on the test, it is important enough to reteach and ensure understanding BEFORE moving on. Otherwise, why was is assessed in the first place?
- Quizzes should count for MORE. This would offset the importance of having a drawn-out test at the end of the month that is wasting more of your instructional time.
- Essentially, you are having a shorter exam because you have more importance and weight for your quizzes.
- If all you get are grades and no extra lessons afterwards based on missed concepts, then this is the only fair method.
- Finals should not be about memorizing the minutia (the details) Midterms should drive the second half of the class and Finals should assess what your class is truly all about. (Trick questions? Why? Keep it straight forward and then there are no arguments about what you find are the most important aspects of your class to assess. Quality over quantity)
And finally some out-of-the box possibilities,
- Have Quizzes/Tests on STUDENT “FREE” TIME. Schools can have Extra periods dedicated to exams.
- Scheduling nightmare? Except for clarifying questions, a majority of students can be required to come to a specific location to take their exams, during their own time.
- This would require rooms and dedicated/rotating proctors (perhaps teachers) who would administer the tests when students arrived.
- Multiple classes can take exams at once.
- Worried about cheating? Have different sets of exams and/or different time periods when students can take exams.
- Have an extra period available each week for classes when the teacher is in his/her room and will administer exams during that time.
- More options are out there
- Then have one of these test periods be used for instructional makeup instead (Extra Help Period)
- To help those individuals who fail portions of the quizzes or test
- This is in lieu of re-teaching a portion of the material that the CLASS needs. This is for INDIVIDUAL help.
DO TEACHERS HAVE THE TIME TO DO THIS?
Let’s run some numbers.
Again, a typical school day is about 7 hours. (or 6 hours if you take out lunch)
How many classes do you think a teacher is teaching each day?
Let’s say a teacher teaches 5 (five) of these full credit, half hour classes, each and every day. Would that be fair to say?
That is 2.5 hours of instructional time each day.
Now, let’s say that this this teacher has (on average) a 30 min. Hall duty and a 30 min recess duty and a 1 Hr. lunch each day. (Let’s assume these duties are ones where teachers can’t work on grading or prep)
2.5 hours “free” per day when a teacher can offer INSTRUCTIONAL time for students who need it or TESTING TIME for a class.
Again that’s 2.5 hours A DAY or 12.5 hours A WEEK of free time that a teacher should (and can) be there for students for Instruction and Clarification.
Even if you take out 10 hours a week of grading time, that’s 2.5 hours each week they can do this!
To answer the title of this section, YES, TEACHERS HAVE THE TIME TO DO THIS!
The extra time should be used for tests and additional instruction INSTEAD OF during the regularly scheduled class time.
Ridiculous, but addressable, don’t you think?
I’m just running the numbers. Feel free to do the same and see what you find. I hope you find something completely different.
Addressing any teacher compensation that should and should not be offered for any changes should be considered, but I’ll leave that up to the next person to run the numbers!