This weekend, the U.S. Department of Education had a breakthrough in educational policy. Substantial changes to the amount and purpose of standardized testing that students and teachers are subjected to each year may change.
Specifically, they accepted responsibility for “unnecessary testing and not enough clarity of the purpose applied to the task of assessing students.” This was followed by a “Testing Action Plan,” which was released with a list of principles for “fewer and smarter assessments” including the following:
- Worth-taking – and relevant to the curriculum that is taught in the classroom
- High-quality – aligned to standards with objectives to elicit accurate information about student growth and knowledge
- Time-limited – to 2% of classroom time
- Fair and consistent – taking into account of all abilities and backgrounds
- Transparent as to purpose
- One of multiple measures – not the only factor of a student, teacher or school’s success or failure
- Meant to improve learning – a tool that helps teachers teach and students learn better
Even though I am not a teacher myself, the “time limited” principle caught my attention and I would like to know how much time is put into testing because I can imagine it to be very time consuming. I also like that there will be a shift in the purpose of the assessments as “tools in a broader strategy to improve teaching and learning.” Currently, the purpose of the tests is to measure student progress and have them prepared for entry-level careers, college courses and workforce training programs…but are we really there?
Testing can be affective, which I do believe that it was at one point in time. However, I think that from various pressures, the way that tests are prepared, administered and ultimately, the results analyzed has gained such a negative connotation with students, parents and teachers that the system needs to be rejuvenated to show that tests can be productive and positive for everyone.
All of this began a year ago when high school students in Boulder, Colorado boycotted the state-mandated science and social studies assessments. The following spring, elementary school parents refused permission for their children to be tested in the PARCC math and English language arts assessments. Even though we now have a document promising changes, we must wait and see what positive changes actually happen, if any.
President Obama and the Department of Education will work with states to provide greater flexibility on assessments. This is also a call to Congress to codify the changes in the Education Act – “No Child Left Behind.”