There is now a growing movement of parents mobilizing against standardized testing. They believe that school districts are sacrificing learning time for data collection. Along with that, parents do not believe these tests provide sufficient or timely information to improve instruction.
Yet, districts insist that this level of testing is vital to determine if students are reaching their learning targets. Assessments provide educators with reliable baseline data. With this information, school sites set measurable instructional goals for specific classes, and demographic subgroups. Multiple assessments provide an unbiased picture of student performance at each school.
Both arguments for and against standardized testing assert valid points. But what’s the real issue, here? Why are parents opting out of testing? Based on our conversations with parents, they believe school districts have not effectively explained the need for frequent testing cycles in a school year. “Schools think standardized testing equates to learning, and it does not. Many families are tired of schools not focusing their energy on teaching.”
When asked, what they would like districts to do differently. Our parents identified the following three practices they believe districts should employ.
Disclose their data intentions. It is a common practice for school districts to collect large amounts of assessment data on each student. Generally, school administration does not share with parents how they use assessment results to improve their child’s scholastic aptitude. According to most parents, this is a problem. By not disclosing this information, it seems that schools are testing recklessly. To end this perception, parents would like for school districts to reveal their data intentions. Districts should explain how assessment data will be used to help their child improve, meet, or exceed their learning targets. They should tell parents the reasoning for selecting particular assessments. “Families want to be consulted in this process.”
Reveal the actual time spent on testing. A number of parents are not against testing; they are opposed “time away from instruction”. They believe that school sites give out too many tests in a single school year. Most students are required to take a high-stakes assessment in the core subject areas in addition to quarterly formative or interim tests. According to many families, these tests divert time away from time -on- learning. It is important that districts show how much time is really spent on testing, and how school sites plan to make-up lost instructional minutes. Parents need to be assured that the average amount of testing does not exceed eight percent of the academic year, leaving the remaining 92 percent of class time for developing necessary subject area skills. “Schools say that they don’t test that much, but I know that my son spent 53.8 hours last year testing. That’s a lot of time lost”.
Ensure test content is aligned to the curriculum. A shared belief among parents is that most tests do not assess grade-level curriculum. And, this is why teachers spend so much time on test preparation. Parents believe this is a misuse of their child’s education. Districts need to give an overview how all tests check what student’s are currently learning and being taught in the classroom. This would help dismiss this misconception among parents. It is clear – from our conversation with these families – that they want more communication on how schools are spending their child’s learning time. The more information parents receive on how assessments are being used at their child’s school the more incline they are to support “responsible” testing.
“The over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school and driving teachers out of the profession.” — National Education Association