by Colleen Flaherty
For many educators, the overuse of standardized tests in the classroom is high on their list of things that must change to improve student learning.
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In heavily tested grades, more than a month of instructional time is lost thanks to high-stakes test preparation and administration. Nearly half of teachers consider leaving the profession due to standardized testing.
With bipartisan support for sensible reform for better assessment and more time to teach, parents and educators share their stories of what over-testing has been like for students and their classrooms to remind lawmakers why the current standardized testing culture needs to be changed:
Nancy W., IN
I teach in an alternative education setting. More than half of my students are reading years below their grade level. I administer ISTEP, acuity and ECA tests. My students are also TABE tested every 15 days in order to collect “academic progress data.”
It is important to note that the 28 days I lose to testing do not begin to reflect the time required to prepare my students for ISTEP and ECA testing (usually at least a week per test). High stakes testing is bad enough for students without academic and personal challenges. For at-risk students and their teachers, high-stakes testing is an educational nightmare.
Susan B., NJ
Students don’t have time to learn any more. They have midterms and finals in core subjects, common assessments 2-4 per subject, the PAARC, SGOs pre and post tests plus regular classroom tests. We are told to make assessments “PAARC-like” so that the whole educational experience has become “teaching to the test.”
Gone are the days of student engagement and higher order thinking skills. In addition, our district fired some 16 educators last year to double up on teaching English, to pass the test. They have done away with “Family Consumer Science” (formerly known as Home Economics). This teaches life skills. In some economic cases, the students need to know how to do things because they need to help out at home. Foreign Language study was cut in half. Every other country in the world teaches languages because our young adults will need to compete in a global society. But in my district, all that has been cut to teach to the test.
Guy S., TN
I have witnessed the overall decline of the interest in teaching and learning by the “teaching to the test” idea that this modern political trend to fire “bad” teachers by proving they are bad by the failure of their students on a test. Good teachers are leaving the profession in droves. Students are always stressed as they anticipate the next test. Much teaching and learning time is lost simply by the time it takes to give all the tests.
John P., WA
These high-stakes tests literally took the fun out of teaching. I taught mostly second graders. There were too many tests. The emphasis of creative teaching went out the door. I couldn’t get everybody on board for the all-school geography rally because they did not have time since they were preparing their last for the next test. Music and PE classes were altered during the day to take these tests in the computer lab instead of using the lab for exploring software programs and math practice, and using valuable learning websites. I felt angry that my class could have been learning 20 percent more of any subject, but instead they are learning how to take a better test. We could have supplemented more theatre arts into the reading program. We could have done more science experiments. We could have finally had art during the school day. But no, where was the time?
Kelli K., IN
Everything revolves around the test. The pace is way too fast for my son. He hates school. He has test anxiety. I have become very resentful of third grade. It has changed my previously confident, happy kid into a nervous wreck with dwindling self esteem.