Nationwide Call to Reduce, Improve Standardized Assessments

While some conversations around the Common Core have leveled out – read why Politico thinks the CCSS may have even won the war—testing debates are still going strong. The latest news comes from President Obama and the Council of the Great City Schools. Both are calling for fewer, more effective assessments, including a recommendation that that no child spends more than 2 percent of her classroom time taking state standardized assessments.

Student Testing in America’s Great City Schools: An Inventory and Preliminary Analysis by the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS)
In order to get an accurate depiction of not only how much time is spent on state standardized tests but also their impact on student performance, the CGCS conducted a comprehensive survey of its members’ practices and outcomes. Overall, the study found that students take about 112 standardized tests from grades PreK-12. And while the percent of classroom time is only 2.34%, that figure does not account for lost instructional time when exams are spread out over multiple days, sample tests, or test prep. Furthermore, the researchers found redundancy across the tests, including multiple summative assessments in the same subjects. Finally, many of the assessments are not aligned with new college- and career-ready standards or each with other. Although a considerable amount of time and money are spent on the exams, it’s not clear that they provide useful data to educators or parents.  

“Everyone has some culpability in how much testing there is and how redundant and uncoordinated it is – Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, states, local school systems and even individual schools and teachers,” said Michael Casserly, the Council’s executive director, in a press release. “Everyone must play a role in improving this situation.” 

Read the report.

Testing Action Plan
On October 24 President Obama posted a video on Facebook saying that he had heard the concerns regarding standardized testing and that through a proposed Testing Action Plan the administration is calling for fewer, smarter assessments (not to exceed 2 percent of classroom time). The Plan, which cites the Council of the Great City Schools survey, outlines key characteristics of effective tests as well as proposed actions for the government.

  1. Worth taking
  2. High quality
  3. Time-limited
  4. Fair – and supportive of fairness – in equitable in educational opportunity
  5. Fully transparent to students and parents
  6. Just one of multiple measurements
  7. Tied to improved learning

Read An Open Letter to America’s Parents and Teachers: Let’s Make Our Testing Smarter from President Obama. 

Read the fact sheet for the Testing Action Plan.

Critics of the proposed plan say that changes in assessments are difficult since many teacher evaluation programs are now tied to student outcomes on those exams. 


Assessment and Accountability