After a simple Google Search on term “Test Pep Rallies,” I found 131 current articles describing recent events held by public schools across the country that would be described as “Test Pep Rallies.” For some schools, these rallies are combined with various kinds of incentives and rewards, but for now, I want to focus entirely on Test Pep Rallies. Here are some examples. In Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, an elementary school held a Test Pep Rally in order to motivate students to take the second phase of state testing. Students cheered as teachers rode around on scooters and walked on balance beams. The sole purpose of this event was to motivate students to do well on the upcoming state test. Then there was the big test pep rally held in Fort Wayne, Indiana by a middle school. In order to further motivate students “to do better on tests” the principal told students that he would shave his head and throw a big party for them if they scored well on their standardized test. A similar event is held in Derry, New Hampshire where students are being motivated to do well on their New England Common Assessment. The principal in this case throws in a big smooch with a pig to get students motivated.
Check out some of these other Test Pep Rallies":
Elementary School in Idaho
Charter School in Louisiana
Elementary School in Florida
Elementary School in Tennessee
All over the country, administrators and teachers are holding “Test Pep Events” obviously with the hope that these events will someone have a positive effect on student achievement scores. But just what do administrators and teachers hope to accomplish with these test pep rallies?
In all the news articles I reviewed that described these “Test Pep Rallies” there were five main reasons given for holding these events:
- Get students excited about taking the test
- Motivate students to do well on the test
- Help students cope with “pre-test tension”
- Help boost students’ self-confidence going into state testing
- Raise students’ self-esteem before they take the test
There is clearly a lack of research to support the practice of having test pep rallies even though I was able to find news articles describing such events as far back as the early 1980s. This lack of research concerning the effects of such practices leaves me with quite a few questions about their use. For example, do they actually have positive effects on the things they’re supposed to affect, like self-esteem, self-confidence, student test-taking stress, or the student’s achievement? When looking for research on effectiveness there is a deafening silence except for anecdotal accounts. If the practice of holding test pep rallies extends as far back as the early 1980s, you would think someone would have investigated the issue.
Of a bigger concern to me is what are some of questions I have about the possible negative effects of holding Test Pep Rallies. Those questions include:
- How does all this emphasis on the importance of students “passing the test” or “doing well on the test” affect those students who are unsuccessful?
- How does holding “Test Pep Rallies” foster a culture where “teaching to test” is expected and the norm?
- Do these “Test Pep Rallies” even work as advertised? Not that I agree with the “test maniacs,” but do these events even raise test scores?
- What effects does having “Test Pep Rallies” have on longitudinal testing data? For example, how does this figure into those who push value-added models? (Perhaps someone needs to conduct a value-added study of Test Pep Rallies.)
- Do these Test Pep Rallies foster a culture that trivializes learning and makes standardized tests the focus of all learning?
- “Test Pep Rallies” might actually harm students and learning. For example, pumping a student up by telling him he’s going to “pass the test” when he fails, obviously is not a boon to self-confidence. In addition, the emphasis that Test Pep Rallies place on tests could foster bubble-sheet learning rather than learning that focuses on problem solving and creativity.
- “Test Pep Rallies” might also reinforce the “Test-Prep” culture found in many schools today due to No Child Left Behind. In those schools we are confident “getting-ready-for-the-test” takes precedence over everything else. Art and other non-tested courses are tossed out in favor of tested subjects.
- “Test Pep Rallies” might just be a waste of time. Because there’s no research on their effectiveness to do what they’re designed to do, continuing them year after year might be based on hope and wishful thinking rather than solid evidence.