It’s April, so there’s a deadline coming up that we’re all familiar with, and I’m not talking about Tax Day (Tuesday, April 18, by the way). If you’re an educator, you know April is memorable for another reason: It is testing season, the time of year when we spend a lot of our time proctoring tests instead of teaching critical thinking skills and fostering creativity.
There’s been lots of activity in recent years by educators and parents to restore balance when it comes to standardized testing. NEA’s Time to Learn campaign focuses on over-testing, redundant testing, and any testing that takes valuable time away from teaching and learning.
Our campaign has renewed energy and focus this year because of the Every Student Succeeds Act, also known as ESSA, the new federal education law. ESSA gives us an opportunity for audits of all the standardized tests mandated not only by federal and state governments, but also by school districts. That way, we can pinpoint the tests that are duplicative, unnecessary, or not particularly useful.
The audits are sure to back up what our experience tells us. Let me put it this way: If we had a dime for every test we administered, there’d by a worldwide shortage of copper. (Yep, copper. That’s what dimes are mostly made of.)
When NEA surveyed 1,500 pre-K-12 teachers a couple of years ago, more than 40 percent said the emphasis on improving standardized test scores had a negative impact on their classroom.
“I would much rather help students learn how to conduct research and how to discuss and how to explore controversies and how to complete multi-task projects than teach them how to recall this or that fact for an exam,” one teacher said.
As 2013 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Megan Olivia Hall and I wrote in an op-ed last year: Teachers aren’t afraid of tests—we invented them. We appreciate tests when they yield useful information that informs and improves instruction. We don’t like them when they take away time for the one-on-one attention that can spark students’ curiosity and desire to learn. After all, that’s why we became educators in the first place.
ESSA encourages test audits by your school districts to uncover how much time and how many resources are dedicated to standardized testing. This involves a request by you, or members of the community, to your local school board. You can get much more information about the process and find out how other districts have If you're fed up because of too much testing, here's what you can do about it: