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Research Reveals Higher Test Scores For Morning Exams

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Elementary, middle and high school students may want to start petitioning for an 8 a.m. standardized test-taking time.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study on Feb. 16 revealing that for every hour later in the day an exam is taken, a student’s average score is decreased by 0.9 percent.

For students testing later in the afternoon, that can add up quickly.

The study analyzed 2 million test scores from public school students along with the time each one was taken.

The research concluded that as the day progresses, a student’s mental resources get used up, and therefore opens a possibility for lower standardized test performance.

The state of Florida decides what specific days school must administer exams, however they do not require specific times a test needs to be taken. Fourth through tenth graders will be taking the state’s writing assessment test Feb. 29 to March 11. Reading and math assessments will begin mid-April.

Tayler Liles, an intern at J.J. Finely Elementary, said if students wait until the afternoon to take a test, they may have to face more distractions.

“They have all day to get tired,” Liles said.

She interacts with 3 classes of fourth and fifth graders at the Gainesville elementary school.

Last year, Alachua County had a 63 percent passing rate on the writing assessment while in Marion County on 51 percent pass. This is not far from the state average of 56 percent recorded  in 2014.

“It’s not like we have a lot of flexibility, ”  Alachua County School Board spokesperson Jackie Johnson said.  Schools must consider  the number of computers available and the required amount of days the state gives them to administer the exams.

With this being the second year in a row for online testing, schools must also take into account the amount of bandwidth that will be used at once.

“The schools have some leeway based on their technology,” Public Relations and Communication Officer for Marion County Schools Kevin Christian said.

Christian said he is near certain that no school has enough computers for every student to take the exam at the same time. Students get rotated through the accessible labs.

The study also found that 20 to 30-minute breaks during standardized testing improved scores by 1.7 percent.

The state places very strict requirements on how tests should be given.

“Once they start they must complete that portion of the exam,” Johnson said.

Christian said exams are strictly timed and that no students are given breaks.

“The state doesn’t say to take a break at a certain time,” Christian said.

Alix Miller, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education,  wrote in an email that “historically, we have not scheduled breaks during writing tests as to not interrupt students during the writing process, but we allow schools to schedule a break and adjust their administration scripts.”

This could include adding a short stretch break after 60 minutes of the 120-minute session, she said.

Test administrators may provide students with individual breaks as needed.

Christian also said instructors teach test-taking strategies during school such as how to bubble circles correctly. Now that the state has moved on to computers based exams, Christian said kids these days are not at a disadvantage.

“Kids are on the computers all the time,” Christian said.

Christian and Johnson both said their districts do not gather data on how the time of day would or would not affect a student’s exam performance.

About Gemima Rosier

Gemima is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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