The article laments that some students take over 100 standardized tests between preschool and 12th grade. From that vantage, a reduction to only 2% of the school year sounds like a wonderful improvement. However the article also shows that 8th grade, the most tested grade level, spends 2.3% of their school year on standardized testing. If 8th grade leads, then there must be grade levels that are already at or near the 2% target. Will this result in any perceivable change at all?
Limiting standardized testing to only 2% sounds as if our students will benefit from 98% of their year devoted to instructional time. However, all educators know that many more days than these are lost to testing. Most districts implement beginning of year and quarterly or trimester benchmark tests to monitor students’ progress toward end of year mandated testing. Additionally, many teachers feel the pressure to produce results and dedicate two or more weeks in the spring to test preparation. These short-term sessions do boost scores, but they do little to increase mathematical competence or improve long-term memory.
The problem is further exacerbated when these days lost to testing and test prep keep teachers from both completing the textbook and teaching to the deep level of understanding we desire. We have produced a generation of students who are masters of test taking but not masters of the content.
It is unlikely that the number of days devoted to mandated testing will diminish significantly. And as long as high stakes are tied to these tests, crucial instructional days will be lost. To use an agricultural analogy, we are weighing the pig to death.
If there is to be a solution, it will most likely come from within the schools. We teachers and administrators hold the keys to our classroom minutes. If we invest our time in teaching concepts deeply and minimize test prep efforts that produce, at best, short-term results, our students will be the better off for it.