NC Families for School Testing Reform

North Carolina General Assembly

NEW!!!

H377 introduced 3-18-2019

Here’s a brief analysis of the proposal as reported by – Raleigh News & Observer 3-22-2019

H377 BILL LANGUAGE & TRACKER

H377 SUMMARY:

Part I

Directs the State Board of Education (Board) to eliminate the use of the NC Final Exam as part of the statewide testing program. Directs the Board to adopt a policy to require local school administrative units assess teacher performance and professional growth in the manner described. Applies beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Part II

Directs the Board to eliminate the use of End-of-Grade (EOG) tests for grades three through eight, and instead adopt a policy to require administration of NC Check-Ins in those grades three time per school year in the manner described. Provides for an averaged score earned from NC Check-In 2 and NC Check-In 3 to constitute the annual assessment for grades three through eight, which is governed by Subchapter IV of GS Chapter 115C, Educational Program. Directs the State Board to make necessary adjustments to currently developed NC Check-Ins.

Directs the Board to develop NC Check-Ins for science for grade five and grade eight, and for reading for grade three. Provides special rules for third graders’ demonstration of reading proficiency, averaged from the NC Check-In 2 and NC Check-In 3 scores.

Authorizes policies regarding participation in the NCEXTEND1 alternative assessment to be applied in the same manner as prior to the enactment of the act, and authorizes the Board to continue the use of NCEXTEND1 for students with disabilities, as appropriate. 

Directs the Board to review existing testing security policies with respect to NC Check-Ins and revise them as necessary to provide for as secure a testing environment as required by federal law or as a condition of a federal grant. Prohibits requiring testing security measures in excess of those required for federal compliance.

Amends GS 115C-81.36, regarding advanced courses in mathematics, to enroll students scoring at a level that denotes superior command of knowledge and skill in their most recently enrolled course in the next advanced mathematics course for their next course.

Makes conforming changes to GS 115C-105.41 and GS 115C-276.

Applies beginning with testing administered for the 2022-23 school year. 

Part III

Directs the Board of eliminate End-of-Cource (EOC) tests for grades nine through 12. Deems the nationally recognized assessment of high school achievement and college readiness or an alternate assessment administered to all students in grade 11 pursuant to GS 115C-174.11(c)(4) , as amended, to constitute the State-mandated testing in grades nine through 12 required by GS 115C-174.11(c)(1) (intended). Directs the State Board to eliminate the required administration of ACT WorkKeys for career and technical education students. Authorizes policies regarding participation in the NCEXTEND1 alternative assessment to be applied in the same manner as prior to the enactment of the act, and authorizes the State Board to continue the use of NCEXTEND1 for students with disabilities, as appropriate. 

Makes conforming changes to GS 115C-83.15 (concerning the calculation of student achievement scores), GS 115C-83.16 (regarding academic indicators as part of school performance indicators for the purpose of compliance with federal law), GS 115C-174.11 (regarding the adoption of an annual testing program) and GS 116-11 (regarding the Department of Public Instruction generating standardized transcripts for local administrative units to use for applicants to higher education institutions).

Repeals GS 115C-174.25 which required, as funding was available, local school administrative units to make available the appropriate WorkKeys tests for students who completed a concentration in career and technical education courses. Effective August 1, 2019.

Applies to testing beginning with testing administered for the 2019-20 school year. 

Part IV

Amends GS 115C-174.11, as amended, by requiring local school administrative units to use the tests provided to them by the Board and prohibits requiring any additional standardized tests.

Amends the Board’s responsibilities under GS 115C-174.12 by requiring that the policies established by the Board include a prohibition on subjecting students to field tests or national tests during the two-week period preceding the administration a state-mandated NC Check-In, a state-mandated nationally recognized assessment of high school achievement and college readiness, or the school’s regularly scheduled final exams. Makes conforming changes by deleting provisions related requirement for each local board of education to notify the State Board of any local standardized testing to be administered to students at the local board of education’s discretion.

Repeals GS 115C-174.15, which required local boards of education to provide results on standardized tests required by the local board to specified individuals.

Applies beginning with testing administered for the 2019-20 school year.

Part V

Amends GS 115C-47, concerning the powers and duties of local boards of education by adding that students must not be required to complete a high school graduation project as a condition of graduation from high school; also specifies that requirements for graduation must be connected only to the completion of required courses. Makes conforming changes to GS 115C-12. Applies beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Part VI

Except as otherwise indicated, effective when the bill becomes law.


H986/S732 (2017-2018):

Another legislative mandate that addresses public school testing was H986/S732 (2017), which was passed at the end of the 2017-2018 legislative session on 6-22-2018. The bill passed 47-0 in the Senate and 94-11 in the House.

Among the changes to education law outlined in the bill, PART IV calls for a study section to look at ways to reduce testing. The NC Superintendent was responsible for reporting the results of the study:

PART IV. STATE SUPERINTENDENT TESTING STUDY SECTION 4.(a) The State Superintendent of Public Instruction shall study and make recommendations on ways to reduce testing not otherwise required by State or federal law in kindergarten through twelfth grade. By January 15, 2019, the Superintendent shall report findings and recommendations to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee. SECTION 4.(b) This section is effective when it becomes law.

BILL ANALYSIS: Part IV would require the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to study and make recommendations on ways to reduce testing not otherwise required by State or federal law. The Superintendent must report findings and recommendations to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by January 15, 2019.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The NC Superintendents’ recommendations to “reduce testing” were announced on January 15th, 2019.

  • Reducing the number of questions on tests
  • Reducing the time students must sit for tests
  • Changing testing policies to reduce the stress at schools around testing time
  • Working with local leaders to reduce the number of locally required tests
  • Pushing to eliminate tests not required by Washington, D.C.
  • Giving students other ways to show progress if they have a bad test day
  • Using the appropriate amount of technology as a tool for students and teachers to personalize learning and eliminate tests

ANALYSIS

IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO JUST REDUCE TESTING

The purpose of the study section was to “REDUCE TESTING”, rather than perform a systematic analysis of current testing practices.

  • The mandate itself is an admission that NC education leaders fell asleep at the wheel, allowing over-testing to take over in the first place.
  • Unfortunately, testing was framed as single issue with a simple solution – less testing. With no goal or guideline, compliance can be easily met by reducing testing by ANY amount, whether or not it translates to a measurable improvement for students.
  • Overall, the recommendations do nothing to restore appreciable learning time to the classroom, reduce pressure, or enhance the type of testing that give timely and meaningful feedback to teachers.

MOST “FIXES” ARE FOR MULTIPLE CHOICE TESTS

  • reducing the number of test questions and testing time, and modifying test conditions are recommendations to enhance performance on the existing battery of multiple choice end-of-grade (EOG) tests, the results of which are not relevant to educational planning.
  • holding a review session right before the test would actually INCREASE the total time devoted to testing on that day, with no break period.
  • The need to accommodate students that have a “BAD TEST DAY” is a symptom of the larger problem of “high stakes” testing – where proficiency hinges on the score from a single test day. In fact, the recommendation “to consider other data beyond test scores” should be the BASIS OF THE ENTIRE TESTING PROGRAM – not just an afterthought on how to deal with students that don’t fit the mold of standardized tests with multiple choice questions.

TEST OVERLAP

Many districts utilize assessments besides those mandated by the state and therefore care should be taken to eliminate redundancy. However, the reasons districts and teachers feel the need to add on tests of their own is because most federal and state tests don’t produce the information they need to adequately guide students.

TECHNOLOGY TO ELIMINATE TESTING

The recommendation to use technology to “eliminate tests” should be approached with great caution. Yes, technology can be used to facilitate record keeping, link assessments to classroom instruction, and allow rapid access to results and analysis. However, teachers cannot be replaced as the instruments of evaluation for the most useful assessments. Regardless of technology, assessments MUST be child-focused, evaluate different kinds of skills, and have a proven track record. Buying some iPads won’t eliminate tests.

Technology alone is not the magic solution for school testing.

Consider that “online” (computer-administered) tests:

– extend the pre-test period by 15-30 minutes because school administrators need to log in each child throughout the school.

– are being administered in buildings with insufficient infrastructure; even reasonably robust networks can fail during testing, adding untold minutes to the testing period.

NEXT STEPS

We are currently researching what kind of follow-up to expect for the recommendations to “reduce testing”:

  • Is the time-frame for completing the process January 2020?
  • Are there any legislative actions needed to complete these processes
  • What is the oversight mechanism for determining if the recommended processes are carried out?
  • How can the public find out about the details for each process?

SUMMARY

POLICIES THAT GOVERN STUDENT ASSESSMENT ARE NOT JUST RELEVANT ON TEST DAY. Because standardized test scores are the cornerstone of accountability, assessment policy ultimately controls the fate of every student, teacher, and school. Despite the critical role of testing , North Carolina has taken few steps to correct the unproductive course that previous policy decisions have set in motion.

CURRENT TESTING PRACTICES MEASURE WHAT’S EASY TO TEST, NOT WHAT COUNTS FOR DEVELOPMENT. North Carolina policymakers and education officials continue to view multiple-choice-style standardized testing as an accurate and just indicator of student accomplishment, despite decades of evidence to the contrary. These tests can gauge a subset of skills, but don’t provide a comprehensive picture of student progress, or what counts for them to thrive beyond graduation.

TO IMPROVE SCHOOL TESTING TWO ISSUES MUST BE CONSIDERED: 1) THE NATURE OF THE TESTS, and 2) WHAT THE SCORES ARE USED FOR. The education stakeholders of North Carolina need a testing program that prioritizes the purpose of assessment – to give each child the right tools for learning, with only LIMITED standardized testing to ensure consistency of instruction and to evaluate new programs.

Tests should be developmentally appropriate, be vetted for quality, and applied in a time-frame that gives teachers the ability to adjust student plans throughout the year. It is critical that the tests represent a variety of skills to better reflect the spectrum of student aptitude and learning styles.

The current program of yearly wide-scale summative testing is not justified. Specific analyses can be made by strategic administration and sampling, rather than testing EVERY student dozens of times throughout K-12. Further, school grading determinations and teacher evaluation should not be heavily weighted toward student scores, if at all.

THE ROAD TO BETTER TESTING POLICY WILL BE LONG, AND WILL REQUIRE MULTIDISCIPLINARY EXPERTISE AND FOCUS. North Carolina urgently needs to adopt new policy that corrects the over-reliance on testing that doesn’t help kids. The state needs to start NOW on what will likely be a decade-long commitment of roll-out, monitoring, and adjustment. Ideally, the process will be directed by a dedicated multi-disciplinary state entity comprised of education specialists that are not subject to political turn-over. Overall, the guiding principle toward testing reform should be to provide teachers with the information they need to help students.