By Janet Barresi, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Thursday, March 13, 2013
I hear from educators and parents throughout the state about “teaching to the test” and time spent on testing. I agree teachers should spend more time teaching and students should spend less time worrying about tests.
But I want to clear up some myths.
Out of all the hours required for instruction in a school year – 1,080 hours by state law – less than 1 percent is spent by a student taking state- or federally mandated tests. Other assessments may be given by teachers or required by school districts. Yet, even if we look at the grades that have the most assessments — fifth and eighth —there are only five state or federal tests required: math, reading, writing, science and social studies/U.S. history.
Next year, fifth- and eighth-graders will not take a separate writing exam, shaving even more time from testing.
Third, fourth and sixth grades have only two federally required assessments. Seventh grade has only three required tests – two by the U.S. Department of Education and one by the state.
Keep in mind that end-of-instruction tests can be taken any time from seventh grade through high school. Not all of such exams will be taken in a single year.
It is true, of course, that testing means a lengthier disruption for school staffers than for students. But if we look at the time impact on students, it is not nearly as long.
Assessing what a child knows and can do at the end of a course of study gives guidance on which instructional methods are successful and helps identify those students who need additional help. Without assessments, we have no measure of whether our students are moving closer to the goal of being college-, career- and citizen-ready by the time they graduate high school.
Too often our students are ranked behind their national peers. When I took office, only 26 percent of Oklahoma fourth-graders were proficient in reading. That same year, more than 42 percent of college freshmen in the state needed remedial courses, which cost money and earn no credit. Only assessments tell us if we are on the right track before we get students across the graduation stage.
Our students deserve to know that what they have been taught in their classrooms is truly preparing them for life, whether that life consists of college or a decent-paying job. They deserve to know they can compete for any job they wish. Information from assessments tell us whether we’re delivering for our students. They deserve this knowledge.