With all the controversy in Olympia over the future of the math and science WASL, it was refreshing (pun intended) to read in this morning's Washington Post about a new testing aid for students: the mighty peppermint.
According to Lori Aratani's article, "The Power of Peppermint is Put to the Test," educators in one Maryland school district are giving their students a minty pick-me-up to help boost their performance on the Maryland School Assessments, which began this week. And yes, there is data to back this up. Apparently a handful of researchers have found a whiff of the minty extract has helped test takers concentrate and perform better on tasks. One study found that athletes who had a hint of mint also performed better than those who didn't. Similar efforts to boost achievement have been tried with citrus fruits and classroom paint colors.
While fresh breath is a nice benefit from this little psychosomatic ploy, it's a bit of a stretch to correlate higher WASL scores with an Altoid. I suppose anything that helps students relax and feel more confident is a good thing. But it's no substitute for strong building leadership, focused instruction, aligned curriculum and engaged families.