Recent polls show that parents and educators are clearly concerned about too much test prep and overtesting; but one of the difficulties in addressing those concerns is that, there is very little real-time data on the extent of the problem and what is actually driving this culture in the classroom. The Center for American Progress (CAP) today released a report, Testing Overload in America’s Schools, to address this gap. Sampling districts from seven states, the report uncovered:
- Districts require more tests than states: Students across all grade spans take more district tests than state assessments. Students in K-2 are tested three times as much on district exams as state exams, and high school students are tested twice as much on district exams.
- Students are tested up to twice per month, leading to a rise of test-prep culture: Students are tested as frequently as twice per month and an average of once per month. CAP’s analysis found that students take as many as 20 standardized assessments per year and an average of 10 tests in grades 3-8. While CAP found that students spend only an average of 1.6 percent of instructional time actually taking tests, a culture has arisen in some states and districts that places a premium on testing over learning.
- There is a lack of transparency around testing: While parents may know when their children are being tested, the purposes of the tests students are taking, whether the state or district is requiring the test, and how much time tests take may not always be clear from the information that districts provide.
This data is shocking. There is a clear need and use for tests, but—as with any policy—implementation is key. But instead of falling into the trap of over-reacting or playing the blame game, let’s stay rooted in the foundational benefits of testing and act in an informed way to address implementation problems and make the the best decisions on behalf of our students and schools.
Luckily, action is exactly what state and district leaders have committed to do. As Deborah Gist, Rhode Island’s commissioner of education, said:
It’s not that we would just talk [about testing issues] or study something at the end of the year. Rather, we will be taking steps as we need to and feel it will be useful throughout the year.
To help ensure follow through, the Chief State School Officers and members of the Council of Great City Schools announced shared principles and commitments, while the CAP report outlines a series of recommendations for “improving test procedures, and for moving away from teaching-to-the-test and the culture of over-testing that is occurring in schools and districts across the country.”
Thanks to CAP, we now have our pre-test…so let’s make some progress.