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Testing

Federally-mandated tests add to the burden of over-testing that is hurting students. NEA is working closely with bipartisan congressional allies, building pressure to restore the emphasis on teaching and learning to lift up all students.

The bipartisan Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act (H.R. 4172), introduced by Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), would reduce the federal role in testing to the pre-No Child Left Behind status known as “grade-span” testing—once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school. NEA continues to work to find a sponsor for companion legislation in the United States Senate.

Less federally-mandated testing would free up time for instruction, reduce the drain on resources, diminish today’s excessive emphasis on “teaching to the test,” and give schools flexibility to widen curricula and offer enrichment classes.

The federal government must uphold its responsibility to ensure equal educational opportunity—the focus of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act—and should require states to have equity and adequacy plans, as well as meaningful assessment systems that provide valid, reliable data. 

Increasing numbers of parents, students, and educators believe there is too much testing in public education. In Chicago, parents spoke out and said the flood of standardized tests is not in students’ best interest, leading the district to cut the number of tests dramatically. In Texas, more than 800 school boards passed resolutions calling for reductions in federally-mandated testing.

No Child Left Behind more than doubled the number of federally-mandated tests—K-12 students now take 14 federally-mandated tests, compared to 6 before enactment of the law. The consequences for teaching and learning are real. In heavily tested grades, more than a month of instructional time can be lost to test preparation and administration in a single year. (Source: Testing More, Teaching Less: What America's Obsession with Student Testing Costs in Money and Lost Instructional Time, (PDF icon PDF, 3.27 MB, 38 pp.) American Federation of Teachers, 2013).

Equally troubling, tests are often of poor quality and evidence is lacking that increased testing has raised achievement. In the 2013 PDK/Gallup poll (PDF icon PDF, 5.31 MB, 17 pp.) of public attitudes toward public education, 77 percent of respondents said increased testing has either hurt or made no difference in improving schools. After analyzing decades of data, the National Research Council concluded, “[P]olicymakers and educators do not yet know how to use test-based incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve education.” (Source: Incentives and Test-based Accountability in Education, 2011)

The Brookings Institution reports that standardized-testing regimes are costing the states $1.7 billion annually (Source: Strength in Numbers: State Spending on K-12 Assessments Systems, 2012 (PDF icon PDF, 745 KB, 42 pp.) )—money that would be better spent on high-quality early childhood education, health care, after-school programs, and support services proven to make a difference, especially for the students most in need.

Moreover, what students are being taught and what is being tested are often not aligned, especially since states are still developing curricula to match new, higher standards. Locally-driven assessments are a more effective means of improving instruction than standardized tests—they provide better and faster feedback that helps drive real improvements in teaching and learning.

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Reduce the federal role in testing