We’re at the time of year where test data are starting to come out. The targeted interventions are over, the posters about remembering to eat and sleep are off the walls as the school goes through its preparations for next year, and everyone is a lot calmer. Summer is the perfect time to de-stress from the end-of-course testing blitz and reflect on the past year.

You’d be hard pressed to find a substantial group of students or teachers who enjoy testing; however, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.  First, it provides a ready target for teachers and students. Each year, even before students really know what college is, there’s a specific benchmark for the class to reach, goals ranging from reading at a first-grade level to solving for the roots of a quadratic equation. These tangible goals and benchmarks add urgency to each day of teaching.

Testing is also hugely important for the data it gives us. As a teacher, it’s one indicator of how successful the year was. It’s a tool for administrators to see which teachers are phenomenal and which teachers need more support. It’s also indicative of larger trends and can help us identify achievement gaps, quantify those gaps, and tell us areas where we’re successfully serving or failing our students.

I’m a firm believer that when you raise the bar on student expectations, students will rise to meet them. This is something we’ve seen in Tennessee in the past few year – and will see in the Common Core Standards that we’re beginning to implement in high schools next year. Common Core holds students to a higher standard as much of the tests that measure learning focus on free response, requiring students to not just find a multiple choice answer, but know how to solve a particular problem, and apply the knowledge. It will require a huge amount of effort from policymakers, administrators, teachers, students, parents, and communities to implement properly and to show patience through what will be a multi-year process.

As a ninth-grade high school teacher, I won’t see students who have been through all stages of the Common Core standards for five more years. The standards that students achieve in elementary and middle school impact what we can teach in high school, and it will take a fair length of time to see the results of this transition. But I really believe that this pushes students further, and, as a stakeholder in Tennessee’s education system, I’m excited for the potential in this change.