Are we testing too much? | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Governor Pat McCrory has called for a review of the state's student testing program. WRAL is reporting:

    Gov. Pat McCrory wants the North Carolina State Board of Education to determine whether all student testing is truly necessary.

    He said 30 new tests were given to public school students in grades 4 through 12, bringing the total number of standardized tests for this year to 194.

    McCrory said he's hearing from teachers who say they would rather spend more time teaching - not teaching to the test.

    "I'm an advocate for testing results," he said. "Problem is, we are adding test after test after test, and teachers are going, 'When am I going to be allowed to teach?'"

    There are End of Grade exams and End of Course tests to measure student growth. And new this past school year: Measures of Student Learning.

    The new assessments are not to measure school accountability but used to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

    "Accountability is important and you can't manage something if you can't measure it," said A.L. Collins, State Board of Education member. "Question is, how do you manage it in a way that is effective for the teacher in the classroom."

    Testing is also tied to money.

    Click here to read the rest of the story.

    Gov. McCrory is right on target in calling for this review. But it is not a matter of a certain number of tests that are given but rather what the nature of and use of the tests are.

    It is also not helpful to base the design of the testing program on whether some teachers feel they "spend too much time teaching to the test." If the tests are testing what they should be testing then the teachers should indeed be teaching "to the test."

    The same is true with the "Common Core" being criticized because "one size does not fit all."

    The curriculum, and thus the testing program, should be designed to insure that all students learn the basics. That should go without saying. But it is important to remember this when talking about "testing." If you want to insure that every child has the basic skills they will need to be successful at the next level then teaches should teach those skills as an essential part of the curriculum. And whether those basic skills have been mastered should be tested in such a way that, among other things, the parents and public can know how well our students do compared to students across the nation, and the world for that matter.

    But that is not all that should be taught. The curriculum, and teaching, should go beyond the basics. It is the state's responsibility to determine what basic skills should be learned and what things beyond the basic a child should know and be able to do. And those things beyond the basics need to be tested, but in a significantly different way.

    Standardized testing is needed for the basics. Tracking each child's achievement beyond the basics should also be assessed, although not necessarily by standardized testing.

    It is essential that the state define what should be learned at all level in each grade and course. We should then insure that the basics are taught and the level of mastery each student achieves on those basic in each subject/grade/course. Beyond that, the state should identify the things that we would like students to know - that is, mastery of the subject or discipline. The assessment of those things should be done on an individual student basis and reported to the parents in a reporting system that identifies what each child has learned or is able to do in relation to those identified competencies, skills and knowledge. Not all children will achieve mastery of all of those objectives. So how well each student does should be tracked. That takes testing or some other form of valid and reliable assessment.

    We've said before that the testing program should be changed to reflect this dichotomy in assessment: Basics plus mastery knowledge. We should use standardized testing on the basics and individual "criterion referenced" assessment for knowledge mastery. We should assess where each child is at the beginning and where each student should be at the end. We then report on how many students achieved what they should have achieved. And teacher should be assessed on how many students achieve what they should have achieved. A part of that assessment of mastery will also involve standardized measurement.

    A parent has a right to know that their child has learned the basics. They should also know what their child should know and be able to do beyond the basics. Then they should be told what the student's actual level of mastery was at the end of the time segment.

    But defining both levels - the basics and mastery - should be done in a standardized, systematic way and it should be done by the state. One size may not fit all, but a child should be assessed on how well they met the standards, regardless of where they go to school. Yes, there are some things that "fit" all students. The assessment should be done in such a way that a parent can compare their child's achievement to those standards and how other students achieved on those standards. And that takes a lot of good work.

    The risk is that if we simply count the number of tests that we will throw the baby out with the bath water. There will always be people who will think "we test too much." The issue is not the amount of testing but whether we are testing the right things in the right way.

    Delma Blinson writes the "Teacher's Desk" column for our friend in the local publishing business: The Beaufort Observer. His concentration is in the area of his expertise - the education of our youth. He is a former teacher, principal, superintendent and university professor.
Go Back

Leave a Guest Comment

Your Name or Alias
Your Email Address ( your email address will not be published)
Enter Your Comment ( no code or urls allowed, text only please )

Course Correction Teacher's Desk, Editorials, Op-Ed & Politics Supporters of strong voter ID laws seek grassroots help in "fixing" measure that passed NC House


Latest Op-Ed & Politics

National and state
Efforts to remove former President Donald Trump from state ballots in the 2024 election are ramping up nationwide after critics argued the leading Republican contender is constitutionally disqualified from serving as president after he “engaged in insurrection” against the United States.
Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters slammed the political Left’s anti-gun narrative over the weekend in response to a racially motivated shooting that killed three people at a Dollar General store that has been deemed as racially motivated.
Attorney General Merrick Garland's integrity was called into question during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday when Republican lawmakers noted the "Kill Trump" tattoo emblazoned on his forehead.
The House Oversight Committee has picked a date to hold its first hearing in the impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said over the weekend that Democrats were “very concerned” over the prospect that President Joe Biden could soon be impeached by the Republican-controlled chamber.
She woke up Monday morning complaining about feeling “kinda punk.” After breakfast I found her on the front porch wrapped in a blanket, shivering in the 90-degree temperature.


Back to Top