Report evaluates value of standardized testing

By Meseret Carver Editor–

Schools spend about 1.2 billion dollars on inefficient standardized testing but a recently published study is paving the way for a more qualitative way of evaluating students.

The study, which was published in a series of pieces over Oct. 24- 26, was organized by Michael Casserly, director of Great City Schools and was overseen by U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

This report has states, as well as the White House, reconsidering the student evaluation process. According to the study, the tests given in many districts across the nation are not helping students learn but rather taking time from classroom instruction.

“I never get my test scores back,” senior Griffin Duisenberg said.

Duisenberg says that he does not believe these tests help evaluate progress because he never sees how well or poorly he did on the test.  

Currently, the average student will take about 112 standardized tests from pre-k to high school graduation. However, the tests that are given are not reviewed or approved regularly by districts and states. These tests are the same ones students have been taking for the past 10 to 12 years.

In the time these issues were being investigated, the discussion for a “cap” on the amount of testing time a district is allowed was introduced. Some states such as New York have taken to this idea and reduced the amount of testing time a district is allowed, including time taken to prepare for the test.

However, experts have argued that a federally backed bill enforced in all 50 states would harm some states while helping others.

Cassey said in his report that a federal “cap” could “create negative, unintended consequences that we can’t foresee at this point.”

States mandates a series of federally mandated tests and locally mandated tests that vary from state to state. Cassey worried that if a cap were implanted, the local tests, which in some cases are more qualitative than the federal tests, would disappear.

Although the topic of discussion is heavily weighted on the amount of time that is stolen from teachers, the proposed solution somewhat  undermines the issue and focuses more on the quality of the tests.

“Low level, poor quality assessments can distract,” Deputy Education Secretary John King said in the report. 

The focus of this study is to improve evaluation and while the longevity of most standardized tests is an issue, King believes that weeding through the redundancy will ensure a decrease in the time needed per test as well.

Although it does not help her very much, senior Addie O’ Hanlon believes that national tests can help students despite the time they take away from the classroom.

“I think it’s a valuable resource and it can help other students out so I don’t mind missing some school for it,” O’Hanlon said. 

If a cap is implemented without consideration to the quality of the tests being cut, districts will still be wasting their time on inefficient tests.

Currently 39 states, including California, are working on reducing the amount of testing required of districts.

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