In the last week education leaders at all levels of the system—local, state and federal—came out in support of fewer, better assessments. These statements acknowledged a need to respond to (and take responsibility for) a culture of overtesting and “drill and kill” test prep, while also recognizing that annual testing is an important aspect of providing educators and parents with vital information about their students’ performance and maintaining a system of protecting children at risk.
As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said yesterday in a Washington Post op-ed:
Parents have a right to know how much their children are learning; teachers, schools and districts need to know how students are progressing; and policymakers must know where students are excelling, improving and struggling. A focus on measuring student learning has had real benefits, especially for our most vulnerable students, ensuring that they are being held to the same rigorous standards as their well-off peers and shining a light on achievement gaps.
While these statements are important, recent actions also tell us that these leaders are more than just talk:
- Districts have already begun reducing duplicative benchmark assessments.
- States like Rhode Island and Colorado have launched a public review of their testing requirements and calendar in order to streamline the number of tests given and to ensure that the results are used to improve instruction.
- The federal government in August offered states new flexibility on connecting teacher evaluation to test results.
While some spectators continue to play the blame game, leaders are leading and putting students first.