Standardized Testing Isn’t Going Away So How Can We Make It Better?

testOh man, a wave of standardized tests just hit our school kids the past few weeks. For some parents and kids, it's a nightmare. You may have read Lindsay Ferrier's post on her daughter's test stress and the Google Hangout conversation on school testing we had last week. It seems like every year, more and more parents are saying, "Let us off this crazy ride!" Well, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan admitted last week that he gets it. He said the criticism about testing "is merited."

Duncan says he and his department are "spending a huge amount of time listening to ideas" about how to transition to the Common Core Standards. But ditching assessments is not one of those ideas -- he says testing will still happen. He's open to support "much better assessment," though. So what are they? Here are a few better school assessment ideas different education experts are pushing.


Lower the stakes of testing. Many parents and educators think we need to stop tying rewards and punishments to testing and stop using tests as the only or the main tool for evaluating schools and teachers. Advocacy group Time Out From Testing, for example, is calling for a variety of methods to assess students' progress. And in the meantime, they are calling for a comprehensive review of the New York State tests to see the impact they've had on students, schools, and the community.

Test less to improve accountability. Executive Director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing Monty Neil argues that we should be testing students less. He says it would be more effective to have comprehensive school quality reviews, to test in just a few grades, and do local assessments.

Shift classroom focus from test prep to actual learning. The American Teachers Federation feels assessment is necessary, but testing has come to "dominate" education. They call for a return to well-rounded education (instead of excessive test prep) and giving teachers the tools and resources the need to teach effectively.

We need classroom assessments too to show how, not just what to teach. The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement points out that standardized tests show teachers which objectives students aren't learning. But what teachers really need is to find out what kind of instruction will help them learn those objectives. Classroom assessments would look at the activities students are doing in classrooms and how effective they are.

Do you feel like there's too much pressure on standardized tests?


Image via albertogp123/Flickr

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