The proper role of testing in our nation’s schools has been a hot topic of conversation this week. It all started last Saturday when the Council of the Great City Schools released a study of 66 urban school districts that found students take about 112 mandatory standardized tests between pre-K and 12th grade. That averages out to about eight tests per year and consumes about 2.3 percent of students’ total class time. The study found a great deal of redundancy and overlap among the tests that students take each year. Perhaps most importantly, the study pointed out that there is no correlation between the amount of mandated testing time and student test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as “The Nation’s Report Card.”
Prompted in part by the release of the Council’s study on Saturday, the Department of Education released a Testing Action Plan on the same day, while President Obama emphasized the need for smarter testing in schools. Most notably, the Testing Action Plan calls for a two percent cap to be placed on the amount of classroom instructional time that is dedicated to test-taking. However, this cap doesn’t address the large amounts of time schools spend on test preparation prior to students actually taking the tests. The plan advocates for fewer and smarter assessments by ensuring that any tests administered be high-quality, time-limited, and properly aligned to the content and skills students are currently learning. The Department wisely points out that a well-designed test is not used only to assess what students know at one point in time, but is part of a broader strategy to inform and guide additional teaching. The Department has promised to issue clear guidance by January 2016 on best practices for using testing as a learning tool.
Available at: http://www.edcentral.org/testing/