In an article for Education First, former kindergarten teacher and principal Alice Meyer took note of her school’s testing policy: her kindergartners were required to take lengthy assessments, taking substantial time away from learning and playing. Many states, districts, and schools struggle with overtesting, but Meyer suggests that the problem is more complex than some believe:
What sticks with me today is the amount of uncertainty around testing: what’s actually required and what is believed to be required; what’s needed to improve instruction and what’s needed for accountability. Too often this confusion leads to unnecessary layers of duplicative assessment. School systems have a responsibility to help school leaders make sense of the testing they’re asked to administer—not just to ensure the right people have the right data at the right time, but to ensure that data needed for decision-making doesn’t come at the cost of student learning.
Right now too much attention is focused on the amount of time spent on test prep and testing (despite the recent news that high-achieving nations test about the same amount as the U.S.). Limiting testing and test prep to arbitrary caps are symbolic attempts, but won’t actually improve the situation in most schools. Instead, we think school systems should pause, identify all the assessments administered in their schools, and engage their educators in a close review of the local assessment landscape. District leadership and teachers should focus on quality – and work together to develop a clear and coherent assessment strategy that ensures the only tests they administer will provide valuable data to inform decision-making and instruction.
Education First worked with a Syracuse school district to develop an assessment plan, but New Hampshire is already piloting a program to reduce the number of tests students must take. PACE works to solve the problem of overtesting by reducing the number of standardized tests elementary school students take and replacing them with locally managed, competency-based assessments. Teachers are directly involved in creating assessments for their students that go beyond fill-in-the-bubble sheets to engage students and produce results that are meaningful and useful.
This year, eight districts will participate in New Hamphsire’s widely watched PACE pilot program.
Read the full article, and Education First’s toolkit for locally-managed assessments, here.