It’s a dilemma that schools face every year. While the fate of teachers, principals and even school districts hangs on scores from federally mandated standardized testing, students themselves have little stake in the reams of bubble sheets they must fill out each spring.
The results of April’s California Standards Tests factor into a school’s Academic Performance Index, or API. That number can influence everything from the number of admission applications the school gets to whether its doors will stay open.
Test-prep pep rallies have become common at schools across the country in the era of No Child Left Behind, the 2002 federal law that requires states to evaluate schools based on test scores. But some schools take motivation a step further.
At Mission High School, Principal Eric Guthertz lets students vote on a reward they will earn if scores rise.
Two years ago, they decided Guthertz should get a tattoo of the school’s mascot, which he sports today on his left arm. Last year, chefs from top-rated local restaurants cooked a gourmet meal for all 900 students. After scores went up last summer, students earned a dance cruise, to be held this spring — although according to the terms of the deal, if Guthertz cannot secure a boat, he will have to eat 25 live worms.