Test calendars – do students actually use them?

Photo by Colleen '10

Photo by Colleen '10

To me, the test calendar seems like a myth. I am always told, look at the test calendar to find conflicts during crunch week or given the famous phrase from various teachers “you should be prepared; I put it on the test calendar.” But actually finding it and effectively using it is the real challenge.

However teachers have tried to promote it, do students even know where the test calendar is? I sure didn’t. Then, can it magically move all my tests around and produce the most perfect arrangement of test quizzes and essays for me? My understanding was always the test calendar is a way for teachers to help me. Make my life easier. Force them to pick certain days where they can put assessments that don’t conflict with many other classes. However if that’s true, how come so many girls find themselves so overloaded? To make the calendar actually work, is there a magic word I’m supposed to be saying that I’m not?

To try to figure this out I consulted of course, my peers, but also all three upper school grade level leaders. All three agreed that the test calendar is a joint teacher student effort. Eleventh grade level leader Reid Cottingham said, “The test calendar is so girls can find stressful days and fix them.” Alison Moser, senior grade level leader agrees. “It is the best way we can catch errors early on…it is up to the student to pick conflict days and talk to teachers before then.”

The big misconception students have about the test calendar is that teachers do the work for us. Marlborough girls feel it should be this perfect organizing system, but essentially it’s a tool to create that perfect system, not an automatic answer.

Sophomore grade level leader Tom Millar said, “Most of the time the only people who come talk to me are my own students. It’s pretty rare a student will ever come and talk to me.” But what about the teachers who don’t put their assessments on the calendar, perhaps not to be sneaky, but simply because they were trying to be flexible. I know many times my class has voted on changing a test date only to find that the new date is just as problematic, especially if the teacher didn’t then immediately notify the test calendar so that other teachers are aware of the change.

“I think teachers use it well at the beginning of the semester,” Millar said, “when they don’t, they are not trying to slip around things but sometimes teachers forget.”

The new portal allows teachers to keep an updated version of the test calendar online for teachers and parents and to see, however, Cottingham noted such a calendar is impossible to keep up to date. If most students don’t think to look, and most teachers dwindle with their diligence as the semester progresses, why do we even have a test calendar anyways?

The grade level leaders however, said whatever the problems with the system, its better than no system.

“It is what it is, it’s not great but it’s what we have,” Moser said.

Millar agreed. “It’s still pretty hard here at Marlborough, but it’s better than no rules,” he said.

I understand that this is an attempt to make our lives easier. But ease is nothing without accessibility, action and certainty. Although it is pretty accessible, most girls rather use their planners. While it is intended as advice for students to take action, all grade level leaders agree it’s rare that someone asks them to switch dates. And though, yes, most teachers do send in their dates, there will always be a bulk that don’t, posing it ultimately ineffective.

It’s a lot of work for level leaders to constantly try and keep it up to date, for what seems like very little results. We are still stressed, and they’re still giving tests. Maybe we should cut them a break.

Moser, who would like that, said “If we didn’t have a test calendar not much would change; I might have more free time.”