According to the first thorough, comprehensive survey of the largest school districts in the United States, the number of standardized tests required in the country’s public school has dramatically increased in the past ten years.
The survey showed that an average student takes about 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade. Yet, most countries that outperform the United States on certain international exams test their students only three times during their entire time in school – thereby raising questions about the validity of the tests.
Over the weekend, President Obama released a video on Facebook, and stated that, “moderation, smart, strategic tests can help us measure our kids’ progress in school, and it can help them learn. But I also hear from parents who, rightly, worry about too much testing, and from teachers who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning, both for them and for the students. I want to fix that.”
The country’s eighth-graders spend an average of 25.3 hours taking standardized tests during the school year. Even pre-kindergarteners take 4.1 standardized tests per year.
And these numbers of tests did not include tests or quizzes created by classroom teachers.
The required number of tests is directed by Congress, the U.S. Department of Education and state and local governments. The blame is also shared by testing companies that aggressively market new tests to lawmakers and school officials.
Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools states that, “Everyone is culpable here. You’ve got multiple actors requiring, urging and encouraging a variety of tests for very different reasons that don’t necessarily add up to a clear picture of how our kids are doing. The result is an assessment system that’s not very intelligent and not coherent.”
As a result of the study, the U.S. Department of Education issued an “action plan” that provides specific ways to reduce redundant and low-quality testing. The department pledged to make staff and funds available. It also promised to change some policies.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement that, “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.”
Standardized testing has caused heated debate within Congress as lawmakers try to create a replacement for the federal act No Child Left Behind. Critics of the testing tried unsuccessfully to end the federal requirement that schools test in reading and math. Civil rights advocates argued that tests are extremely important for struggling students because the test scores, which are publicly reported, highlight the gaps in achievement between underserved students and their more “affluent peers.”