U.S. schools don’t test as much as people think and the stakes “aren’t really that high,” argues Kevin Huffman, a New America fellow, in a Washington Post commentary.
“In an apparent about-face from his administration’s education policy over the past seven years,” President Obama said last week he wants to “fix” over-testing, writes Huffman. The administration wants to limit testing to 2 percent of classroom time.
Testing averages 1.6 percent of class time, according to a Center for American Progress analysis. In Tennessee, where Huffman was education commissioner, state-mandated tests took seven to 10 hours per student per year, less than 1 percent of class time.
“Where students spend too much time taking tests, local schools and districts — not federal or state policies — tend to be the culprits,” he adds.
Due to federal pressure, more states now evaluate teachers based partially on their students’ test scores. All use “multiple measures” and “nearly all teachers perform at or above expectations.”
When schools are evaluated, “significant interventions” are targeted at the bottom 5 percent of campuses, he writes.
“Many schools spend too much time on mind-numbing test prep, sitting kids at their desks and going over endless multiple-choice questions,” Huffman concedes. There’s little evidence it improves scores.