Archive for November, 2015

November 11, 2015

The myth of excessive testing

by Grace

We don’t test students as much as people think we do. And the stakes aren’t really that high.

The facts do not support President Obama’s declaration”that schools in this country are over-testing” according to former Tennessee commissioner of education Kevin Huffman.  But in response to complaints from parents and teachers about over-testing, the Obama administration has come out with a recommendation for “a cap on the amount of time that students spend testing at 2 percent of overall instructional time”.

… the dramatic flair of the president’s announcement and the elated response from many critics of education reform obscured some important truths. First, students are tested less than many people believe. Second, in places where students spend too much time taking tests, local schools and districts — not federal or state policies — tend to be the culprits. And third, the notion of standardized tests as “high stakes” is vastly overstated.

Is this recommendation relevant?

Contrary to the exaggerations, though, most states already are under the 2 percent testing cap. A Center for American Progress analysis of 14 districts in seven states found that testing consumed an average of 1.6 percent of instructional time. …

Excessive testing time is usually based on decisions of local school districts.  Perhaps they feel pressured, but so far schools and teachers have suffered few consequences from poor test scores.

The truth is, it’s nearly impossible for a teacher to get fired because of poor test scores. And for schools, significant interventions generally happen at just the bottom 5 percent of campuses. Poor test results may be embarrassing when released publicly, which can lead schools to scramble into drill-and-kill test-prep mode. But the claims of massive stakes driven by federal or state law are overwrought.

For those parents whose children are spending excessive time involved in standardized testing, the logical recourse would be to take it up with the local school.  Unfortunately, changing school policies is an uphill battle and parents often find they are powerless to make meaningful changes for their own children.  More school choice would give families more options in cases where over-testing is a problem.

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