North Carolina’s current program of student testing in public schools needs to prioritize the seemingly forgotten purpose of assessment – to give each child the right tools for learning.
MEANINGFUL vs. MEANINGLESS TESTING
Schools have long tested children to identify academic challenges, allowing appropriate interventions to be put in place.
Well-designed assessments at critical developmental stages are proven to give beneficial feedback to teachers and families.
However, the most often-used tests only measure certain skills, making them ill-suited to track the progress of children with different strengths and needs.
Further, the majority of tests don’t help teachers plan for their students. Instead, certain scores are used exclusively by education officials to rate teacher and school performance.
WHEN THE STAKES ARE HIGH, CHILDREN LOSE
When school funding, salary, and career advancement are tied to student test scores, it’s inevitable that many teachers and administrators turn their focus to “TEACHING THE TEST”.
Students spend weeks practicing THE TEST and going over tips for taking THE TEST, leaving less time for other subject matter and developing different types of skills.
MORE TESTING = LESS LEARNING
In addition to the testing requirements set by the federal and state government, some districts add more assessments on top of that.
The most comprehensive set of tests start when students are in 3rd grade, with beginning-of-grade (BOG) and end-of-grade (EOG) multiple choice tests in mathematics and language arts. Yearly testing continues until students reach high school, where they take end-of-course (EOC) exams for all subject matters, and for technical courses (CTE).
Between the check-ins conducted each quarter in elementary school and the massive EOG tests, our youngest learners are being substantially shortchanged on teaching time.
HIGH STAKES = HIGH ANXIETY
The type of “HIGH STAKES” standardized testing that’s required by federal and state laws takes an enormous psychological toll on students.
Kindergarten students immediately enter the testing pipeline in their first year of school, along with the expectation to perform. The pressure to test well year after year can cause anxiety, not to mention negative attitudes towards school.
Even though teachers tell students that standardized tests don’t count toward a class grade, most young students are confused about testing and why they have to do it.
With all the fuss over practice tests and review all year long, it’s only natural for students to think standardized testing is a BIG DEAL – and every year children worry about FAILING these tests.
PARTICIPATION IS NOT OPTIONAL
Imagine taking a standardized test when you’re new to the English language. You know there’s no way to succeed. You can’t even understand most of the words in the reading passage.
This scene is played out all over North Carolina as children are doomed to score in the bottom ranks on tests that have no relevance for their individual progress.
Whether it be English learners or students with certain disabilities or learning differences – for some children, standardized testing simply DOES NOT FIT their ability. Yet they must still test every time, year after year.
Futile testing of this nature can be degrading and humiliating for a child and does nothing to guide their education. Teachers require relevant assessments that better match the individual student in order to meet their educational needs.
QUESTIONS ABOUT QUESTIONS
The nature and purpose of the many of the standardized tests have been called into question by educators and child development specialists.
There are unaddressed problems with test quality, including age-inappropriate wording, and introduction of cultural bias.
Another concern for young children in particular is testing that extends for long periods of time (3 or more hours), which is at odds with what most experts would say they can handle at their stage of development.
SEE FOR YOURSELF.
Volunteer to proctor an exam at one of your district schools. Experience first-hand the agony of third graders struggling through three solid hours of testing with no break.
Testing practices that reward teachers and schools DO NOT increase student achievement.*
*National Research Council 2011. Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education. Washington D.C.: The National Academies Press. link
CONCLUSION: “TEACHING the TEST” does not improve overall student achievement.
Why should I care?
My kid has already graduated college and his days of filling out bubble sheets are long gone. Why is standardized testing such a big issue now?
Student testing has far-reaching implications for all North Carolinians, whether you have school-aged children or not.
- North Carolina taxpayers spend MILLIONS of $ on testing that has minimal or no value for our children – the funding should go toward assessments that give a better return on investment.
- Children are taking more standardized tests than ever before in the history of the public school system. The data were supposed to show *how* to improve student outcome, but now we are simply generating more data documenting the decline in student outcome, along with the increase in standardized testing.
- “TEACHING THE TEST” stifles teacher creativity, their ability to reach individual students, and the appeal of teaching as a profession.
- North Carolina needs to have a competitive edge in terms of a high-quality educated workforce, making it an attractive hub for both research and commerce. Currently, only one-third of our elementary school children are proficient in mathematics and reading, a statistic that may not instill confidence in potential business interests. Testing reform plays a critical part in the larger picture of developing student skills that are relevant to the future of our workforce.
We are seeking efficient, equitable, informative, and evidence-based testing practices that will serve as appropriate benchmarks for student progress.
Through school testing reform we can:
- invest in the most appropriate and worthwhile assessments
- restore more instructional time to the classroom
- ensure the future success of our citizens by providing the right educational tools for each student.
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!
We’d like to hear about your experience with school testing as a parent or educator:
Explore our site for more information and expert analysis of public school testing:
Follow us on social media to keep up with news, articles, and events: