Distant students from across North Carolina return to school to take high-stakes test
On a recent Monday morning in teacher Kelly Shearon’s fifth-grade class at Lakewood Elementary in Durham, the conversation turned to the upcoming end-of-class exams – best known to children in North Carolina as EOG name.
Shearon was ready with a pep talk.
“All of you, this year has been pretty wild. Am I right?” Shearon started.
She listed all of the challenges her students overcame this year – virtual lessons, poor internet connections, sick family members, and caring for younger siblings – plus wasting time together in class.
“It was really tough, and you have to know it,” Shearon told his students. “I’m so proud of you, and there is nothing you can mark on the EOG to make me less proud of you.”
End-of-class exams are standardized tests imposed by the state and used to hold schools accountable for student learning.
Shearon recalled their first day together, months earlier in March.
“Our first day back in person,” said Shearon, “it took about 20 minutes after the start of the day, right, before a hand came up and asked, ‘Are we taking some EOG? End of class tests? ‘”
Shearon says that for many of his students, testing is a looming anxiety – as it is for 11-year-old Jairo.
“I don’t know how other people feel. I just know how I feel,” he said. “I think I’m the most nervous.”
Jairo isn’t sure how his classmates feel as he hasn’t spoken to them face to face for over a year. When Durham Public Schools switched to in-person classes, Jairo’s family decided to keep him in the virtual school.
He has only taken graduation exams once before, in third year, since the federal government last year allowed states to cancel their exams due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Jairo’s family moved to Raleigh, and he continued to attend Lakewood Elementary School virtually. He hasn’t seen his school since August.
“I have a Chromebook. This was the last time I went to school,” Jairo recalls.
This month, thousands of virtual students across the state will visit their schools for the first time in several months, to take a series of three-hour tests.
The federal government has yet to waive exams this spring. In accordance with federal guidelines, the North Carolina Department of Public Education requires virtual students to take exams in person.
“There are so many things I would love to do with all of my students. Meeting them for the first time and taking a test is not high on my list, ”said fifth-grade teacher Leah Erlbaum.
Erlbaum is Jairo’s new teacher at Lakewood Elementary School. He had to change courses mid-year as Shearon now teaches in person.
Sitting in his living room a few days before his science exam, Jairo tells Erlbaum on a video screen that he’s worried if he doesn’t have enough questions he might not go to college.
“Jairo, no matter what happens on the test, you will pass fifth year,” she assures him.
“Okay,” he replies, heaving a sigh of relief. “Ok, that’s good to know.”
Erlbaum explains that because Jairo is doing well in school overall, a bad test result is not enough to hold him back. While Jairo can relax about his exam, the end-of-class tests present high stakes for teachers and public schools.
The North Carolina Department of Education collects EOG data so state education officials can see how North Carolina students are doing and hold schools accountable for providing an education of the highest quality. solid base.
Of the various standardized tests that elementary students typically take each spring, EOGs carry by far the highest stakes for the school. They affect teachers’ bonuses and the principal’s salary.
End-of-class exams also determine the grade from A to F the school receives. This rating can affect the values of the local house and the way new families who settle in the neighborhood see the school and whether they opt for a charter school or a private school instead.
Located in one of the most diverse and racially balanced neighborhoods in County Durham, Lakewood Elementary’s student body is predominantly low-income and most students are Latino or black. This trend is affected by high-income families and white families in the area who opt for other schools.
Numerous studies nationwide have shown that how well students perform on standardized tests correlates with their families’ socioeconomic status. According to a 2005 meta-analysis of nearly 50 studies on the relationship between socioeconomic status and academic achievement, this relationship is stronger for entire schools than for individual students.
Principal James Hopkins knows his students have wasted valuable class time this year, which could delay the school’s recent progress on his literary grade.
“I struggled with that a lot, because we were riding a huge wave of momentum at the end of the 2018-19 school year,” Hopkins said.
This school year, Lakewood Elementary went from an F grade to a letter C grade based solely on their test scores. This was the last time North Carolina students participated in the EOG.
This unusually strong improvement was the result of hard work, a new program, additional funding and leadership from Hopkins. After the Department of Education shortlisted the elementary school to potentially be taken over by a charter school operator, Durham Public Schools hired Hopkins to help lead the recovery efforts of the school. ‘school.
Hopkins said he hopes the school can show his community that the school’s past success was no accident and that the school has built a culture of high expectations.
“It’s not so much that I’m worried our rating is going down,” Hopkins said. “My big concern is that we didn’t get around enough with our students to show them that Lakewood is a great school.
“We don’t prepare students for a test,” Hopkins pointed out. “We prepare students to be confident when they enter the next class.”
For Jairo, the end of class exams will mark his last time at Lakewood Elementary as he looks forward to college and all the new changes and challenges ahead.