In the past many locals thought that the occasional calendar overlap between high-stakes standardized testing and the 10-day all-city party was merely a macabre coincidence, but recent moves by local school districts may imply otherwise.
While official recognition will require improved schedule alignment on the part of some districts, others are already implementing a nearly identical STAAR/Fiesta calendar. Officials hope that the party atmosphere generated by the do-or-die multiple choice tests will only serve to generate enthusiasm for other Fiesta events.
“We’ve been trying to find a way to get kids more into Fiesta, and what generates more hype and excitement than three solid weeks of testing?” said a representative at NEISD.
While students will definitely benefit from the FieTESTa spirit, administration feels that teachers will get in on the action as well.
“If ever our teachers needed a night at NIOSA, it’s after placing their job security in the hands of a bunch of 4th graders,” said a principal on the FieTESTa commission.
For several years, the district coalition has been denied by the Fiesta commission, who believes that the number of children who become physically ill with test anxiety might draw unwelcome attention to the number of people who become physically ill following NIOSA and other Fiesta events.
“We’d rather not have people wondering how much vomit Fiesta generates,” said a Fiesta official, “No one benefits from quantifying that.”
The Every Student Succeeds Act now makes the STAAR test and other standardized tests subject to drastic change, leaving open doors for innovation.
By drawing parallels between the two spring events, the school districts hope to sway the commission.
“Fiesta participation and high-stakes testing are equally good indicators of how well teachers are teaching and students are learning,” said an Northside ISD administrator, “If the state legislature miraculously reduces the scope of the tests, we’ll need something equally beneficial to fill that void. Why not Fiesta?”
Though he admits that Fiesta does not generate the necessary level of anxiety, the NISD administrator went on to list loss of sleep, loss of classroom instruction time, and highly specified jargon among the many similarities between the two events. The districts are even proposing their own Fiesta royalty.
“The STAAR Czar will visit schools around the district, reminding students that their entire future rests on the outcome of these tests. Particularly the 3rd graders,” said the SAISD representative.
She then revealed a mock-up of the STAAR’s proposed Fiesta medal. It depicted a pair of bloody handcuffs dripping onto a multiple choice test, a detailed design that was hard to make out, but rather grim once understood.
Districts have already found other Fiesta-themed activities to motivate discouraged test-takers and redirect students’ growing apathy toward their education. An elementary school in Alamo Heights ISD passed out cascarones full of shredded Scantron sheets, which became very popular when an industrious 4th-grader pieced the shreds together to discover that the school had unwittingly distributed answer keys to upcoming tests.
Last year a middle school in NEISD filled piñatas with sharpened #2 pencils leading to a several emergency room visits.
“The kids were actually thrilled about that, because so many of them got out of taking the STAAR due to injury. They asked if we could do it again this year,” said the principal.
More than anything, the districts’ petition rests on the amount of time spent preparing for the intense weeks of testing.
“We spend way more time preparing for the STAAR than anyone does preparing for Fiesta,” said an SAISD representative, “Official recognition of FieTESTa would give that preparation a renewed sense of purpose.”