Not many people like to take tests. School exams often evoke feelings of stress, late night snacking, and more often than not, all night cramming. Well, perhaps the time we spend eating 100 calorie packs while speed-studying biology will be truncated, because the Obama administration is now saying that American students are taking too many tests and missing out on valuable instruction time.
A recent survey from the Council of the Great City Schools found that during the time between kindergarten and high school graduation, the average student is estimated to take 112 mandatory standardized tests overall. That’s eight every year!
Throughout the past decade or so, concern has been growing over the amount of time students spend preparing for these many tests. While the Obama administration understands that testing as an evaluation tool is still necessary to ensure that our children are continuing to progress in their studies, how and how frequently these evaluations occur, they argue, needs to change.
The New York Times quoted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as saying, “I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support . . . but I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.”
With the creation of the No Child Left Behind initiative under the second Bush administration, state and federal education funding became increasingly tied to a new set of performance-based metrics. Essentially, pressure was placed on schools to bring up their lower performing students, or risk losing much-needed resources. To compensate, individual states began to create their own performance standards, often leading to stressed out teachers, and more time spent teaching to a test rather than utilizing other types of classroom instruction.
“It’s important that we’re all honest with ourselves,” Duncan said. “At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.”
In an effort to clear up the confusion, the Obama administration is trying to create a streamlined set of guidelines that states will be encouraged to follow. Among these new proposed suggestions is an assessment cap, which would limit the amount of testing to 2% of the overall classroom instruction time. This would mean that students would have more time to spend on lessons and hands-on activities (egg-drop off the roof to learn about gravity, anyone?) instead of preparing for the next high-stakes test.
Both sides of the political spectrum have their concerns over the proposed assessment cap, but no matter which side you are on, we are happy that time is being spent making sure that students are getting the best education possible. And who doesn’t like a homemade volcano?
[Image via Shutterstock]