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Unsolicited Suggestions: A National Testing Audit*

TestauditduncanscholasticMy new column for Scholastic Administrator proposes that the Obama administration undertake an audit and establish some testing guidelines for states and district to work with -- not a mandate, just some parameters.

Why bother?  Earlier this year, I noted that for all the hullabaloo surrounding overtesting we didn't really know all that much about test proliferation beyond anecdotal reports and isolated (and sometimes hyperbolic) media accounts. There is no national data that I've found. FairTest doesn't track this information comprehensively.  

Some parents and teachers seemed to feel like there was way more testing than in the past.  Some were just objecting to new, harder tests or to  new, controversial uses of the test results (to rate teachers not just schools or kids).

Last week, Teach Plus took a stab at answering some of the questions about test proliferation and variations among districts and states.  Even with findings revised to reflect changes in Chicago, there were clearly large differences among districts in terms of how much testing and time were involved -- and large differences between official time for administration and teachers' accounts even before test prep time was included.

Of course, the USDE has its hands full with test-related issues over which it has more direct control than whatever add-ons states and districts have layered onto federal requirements. The Secretary has given out 5 "double-test" waivers (CT, MS, MT, SD, VT) and has another 10 under review (CA, IA, IL, IA, KS, MD, MA, NV, OR, WA). Three states (ID, MT, and SD) are going to use their new field test assessments.  Connecticut is going to use the field test assessments for 90 percent of districts.  California is going to use them for elementary school accountability. 

But I still think that it'd be a good idea for someone to take a national snapshot of where we are on the testing burden front.  Right now, the whole discussion is happening in the absence of consistent and reliable data. Image via @scholasticadms *Fixed link - thanks, KL

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We at FairTest lack the resources to really document the increases in testing. But the only question is how much, not whether. We've looked at various districts and the amounts are absurd, up to 30+ tests in some grades in some cities. We did do an extensive survey in the late 1990's, and threw out one district as an outlier because it required 9 tests whereas almost no others required more than 3 and many required none.

TeachPlus may have corrected its Illinois data, but it remains quite far off on Chicago district testing. Christopher Ball and I both offered evidence to that point on the Ed Week blog at http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2014/02/time_spent_on_student_testing.html#comments. Why TP won't correct that, I do not know. Nor do I know if they are also inaccurate about other districts.

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