Students prepare for approaching EOCs

Erin Pfeifer, Staff Writer

In early April, dread fills the halls of high schools all across Missouri. Students are tense, running over algorithms and grammatical rules in their heads, trying desperately to remember everything. This is the time of End of Course (EOC) examinations. Students cram in their studies while teachers and administrators alike are simply waiting to see how each year’s test will affect the next year of schooling. Ultimately, the average score Rolla gets on EOCs will go into determining whether or not the district keeps its accreditation by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Though it is unlikely that Rolla High will suddenly become unaccredited, the school’s “report card” does affect the accreditation. Of course, that is not the only thing, as explained by English Language Arts Assistant Director, Lisa Scroggs.

“Several elements go into a school’s ‘report card’. Assessment results, graduation rate, performance of subgroups, and more. It will vary school by school based on all elements,” Scroggs said.

The rules for accreditation have five categories for the schools to meet. There are assessment results, graduation rates, and subgroup performances, as well as college and career readiness and overall attendance. If a school experiences a sudden change in any of these categories, or does not sufficiently complete the standards DESE has set, they could lose accreditation, which means they lose out on state and federal funding. This causes a lot of problems for the schools, and the ability of the students to achieve new things through their schools.

“Concern as an educator is what happens to the students if the schools do not work to ensure that the Missouri Learning Standards are implemented in the classroom.

We all want Missouri’s students to be successful during and beyond their years in K-12 education, and students who receive excellent instruction in the Missouri Learning Standards can reach high levels of success,” Scroggs said.

However, does the importance of the EOC scores for the school really mean that students should experience this much stress? School principal, Dr. Jim Pritchett, does not think so.

“I would tell them not to worry about it. Do the best you can, realize it’s just another piece of the puzzle, and there are many pieces that spell who you are and who we are at the high school,” Dr. Pritchett said.

Students are always filled with fear for the next test. It is not something they can control, it is just an unfortunate reality of high school. EOC testing has gotten progressively more difficult, trying to raise the standards of Missouri’s students.

“Testing should reflect what our students should know. If we teach our curriculum, the assessment at the end should be just that, an ending,” Dr. Pritchett said.

The trouble comes with the increasing difficulty of the tests. No longer can an English EOC be passed by simply reading through questions and skimming passages. Even students who have always paid close attention may find themselves lost in the complications of the tests.

“I think it’s fair to say the English I and II tests used to assess the Missouri Learning Standards adopted in April 2016 are more rigorous than the previous tests. The student must read each passage closely, considering connections between ideas and the impact of writer’s craft on meaning,” Scroggs said.

Of course, the rigor of the reading and answering portion of the test is not often the most dreaded by students. Reading comprehension certainly is not everyone’s forte, but most students find comfort in the multiple choice answers and ability to look back on the passage. The more pressing matter for most students is writing the essay, and with last year’s change in writing prompts, the fear is well justified. The introduction of blended writing prompts marked the first time many students in English I and II had written that style, and changed the entire scoring guide for that portion of the test. However, this was not done without a lot of work from DESE to ensure that the new writing prompts would be comparably scored and managed.

“Because the Missouri Learning Standards for English I and II include expectations for blended-genre writing and use of sources to support ideas, DESE brought in a number of educators to write prompts reflecting the new expectations and to create a rubric to score the new prompts,” Scroggs said.

Overall, EOC testing is a great beast that all high schoolers in Missouri must fight, but they can also be seen as a rite of passage. Although students struggle with the standards the tests are held at and a desperation to pass the required tests to get their full high school credit, they also bring students together in their disdain. No one can deny their worry for reaching graduation standards or maintaining an impressive transcript for colleges to look at. Whether a person approves of standardized testing or not, they must admire its ability to unify every single high school student across an entire state.

“Everyone is either for standardized testing or very against it. I’ve always just thought of it as being our way to make sure that our students are getting the best education they can so that they can be the most successful people they can when they leave our schools,” Dr. Pritchett said.