Standardized tests are getting tougher, and it's getting increasingly harder to motivate students to put forth the time and effort needed to prepare for success on those exams.
Teachers at Jennings High School in St. Louis, Mo. have taken to a new approach to get kids on board: by filming a rap video to Ace Hood's "Hustle Hard."
About a dozen teachers came together to film the video with teachers singing, "hustle, hustle, hustle, hard. Study, study, study, hard." And when the video made its debut at an assembly earlier this month, the high school's 900 students cheered so loudly it was like they "were at a concert or something," teacher Tom Spivey told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
By filming the music video, teachers sought to show students that the state-mandated tests are serious business. The end-of-course exams are part of the Missouri Assessment Program, which debuted in 2008 and uses test scores to measure how well students are mastering required courses and how effectively educators are teaching those subjects.
"The auditorium was very loud after the first viewing of the video and it seemed like more excitement like, 'Yeah I have to crunch down on this test because my teachers are pushing me in a way that I'm not really used to them pushing me,'" Jennings student Kiley Stayton told KSDK.
Pressure is mounting on standardized tests across the country. In Texas, high school students could spend as many as 45 of the 180 days in an academic year just in standardized testing. For ninth graders, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, which debuted this year, was originally set to count for 15 percent of a student's final grade. But Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott later decided to postpone that rule for a year, and districts have until May 1 to decide whether to use the STAAR to determine a student's passing of a course.
Districts across Texas have gradually signed on to a resolution that says high-stakes standardized tests are "strangling our public schools." The resolution, sent out by the Texas Association of School Administrators, has been adopted by 192 of the 1,000-plus districts across Texas as of March 27.
The No Child Left Behind Act -- the Bush-era law that requires annual testing -- has been a huge hurdle for many states, which face consequences for low-performing schools. January's National Opt-Out Day marked by teach-ins across the country called for an end to high-stakes testing.
To lessen the strain of a one-size-fits all approach to student assessments, the Education Department has issued waivers to 11 states, allowing them more freedom from the law. States that seek waivers from the Obama administration are required to adhere to a measurement, curriculum and assessment plan proposed during the application process. An additional 26 states have applied for waivers.
Even so, some states are still trying to further lessen the emphasis on standardized tests. Virginia's state Senate voted to pass a bill in January that scales back statewide tests for 3rd graders -- cutting history and science from the list and only requiring English and math exams to allow teachers to focus on improving proficiency in those subjects.
The move by the Virginia Senate comes after a draft of a Republican bill would eliminate the federal requirement for statewide science testing. The draft legislation, introduced by House Republicans led by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chair of the House Education Committee, marks a reversal of provisions under the current No Child Left Behind Law, which requires science testing at least three times -- once each during elementary, middle and high school.
In Missouri, Jennings sophomore James Frenchie said students really related to the rap video, which he said was "tight."
"[Students] relate to the test a molt more when they see how much effort the teachers put in," Frenchie told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Check out the Jennings rap video above. Below, test your own knowledge: Based on some of the released sample questions for the Texas eighth grade exams in math, science, reading and social studies, would you be promoted to the ninth grade?