Being a lifelong Minnesotan instilled in me an immense appreciation and love for the different seasons. That said, I’ve never thought much about how a “change in the weather” might affect classroom performance until the past couple of years when Questar started seeing an impact on winter and spring testing windows.
Prior to No Child Left Behind, a bad weather day meant extra emergency drills, no outdoor recess, rescheduling extra-curricular activities, and maybe even the possibility of days off school. Bad weather now often means rescheduling computer labs, changing testing windows, and extending the school year well into summer — and possibly jeopardizing student’s progress in the classroom and the real world. As standardized tests are designed to provide timely results to educators for use in accountability and accreditation, we no longer have the luxury of long windows of time to score these tests. More and more schools, districts, and states, depend on a quick-turnaround with timely results, and delays caused by Mother Nature can impede that from happening.
In the spring of 2013, Minnesota worried about the impact so many school closings would have on the testing in April and May — especially for the rural schools. And in the winter of 2013–14 schools in Washington, D.C. were struggling with the repercussions of one of the snowiest winters ever. During the spring of 2013 and 2014, storms and tornadoes ripped through many states like a wet paper towel and with devastating results. Lives were lost, thousands were without power, and many students were displaced as their schools were destroyed. Bad weather caused some schools to miss weeks of school, often extending the school year through June and well into summer.
Not only can weather impact students taking a test, but it can put all scoring and reporting deadlines at risk. As more and more students experience gaps in both instruction time and preparation time, the effect of weather on their success becomes more threatening than ever before. We need to be able to respond in a timely and efficient manner.
This is where this situation gets personal for me. How can I, as a Scoring Services Manager, minimize the impact of weather on students’ testing experience? By making decisions — like extending our scoring windows and keeping our customers informed on a daily basis with truthful and timely updates — to ensure that the impact on students (and teachers!) will be minimal.
While we can’t always “predict” Mother Nature, we can be proactive in “weathering the storms” together. Every minute, hour or day missed in scoring and reporting can have an effect on student progress. But we can, and do, go the extra mile to do the right thing for our customers — foul weather or not!