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Gone are the days when tests were used to measure proficiency and improve instruction. Testing has gone high-stakes emboldened with untapped-power to determine the future of students, educators and even whole schools. NEA's Time to Learn campaign is based on the belief that students are more than a test score, as are educators and schools. Basing advancement, employment, grade progression or graduation, and school closure decisions on a test, is unfair, and hinders our ability to shape our children's tomorrows. Students must know how to do more than fill in bubbles, they must be able to connect the dots in a 21st century globally-interdependent world.

In 2014, NEA surveyed teachers and found that 42 percent felt the emphasis on improving standardized test scores had a negative impact on their classroom. In short, high-stakes testing was forcing many to teach to the test, at the loss of a well-rounded curriculum.

No bubble test can measure a kid’s curiosity, that’s why NEA’s Time to Learn campaign advocates for alternative solutions such as multiple measures. Multiple measures of proficiency can include projects, portfolios and other locally-designed formative assessments that, along with the standardized tests, create a summative score for a student.

NEA's 5 Principles for Fair and Meaningful Accountability Systems

  • Assessments should be designed primarily to enhance learning, not simply to get data for a report.
  • Assessments should measure growth in student learning from one point in time to another as well as attainment of standards
  • Tests should be used primarily for their designed purpose, and should be valid and reliable if used in an accountability system
  • One or two tests should never be the sole indicators of student growth and achievement
  • Test taking should not overwhelm a student’s classroom experience

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    Congress recently passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), ending the era of No Child Left Behind. Now it's up to all of us to make sure the new law is implemented to allow schools to focus on what matters most: inspiring students’ natural curiosity, imagination, and desire to learn. That will only happen if educators lead. Click here to join NEA's work implementing ESSA!


    The History of Standardized Testing in the United States

    From Pre-Civil War to NCLB, follow the timeline of student testing in American schools here.

    Educators and Parents on Testing

    "Everything revolves around the test. The pace is way too fast for my son. He hates school. He has test anxiety. I have become very resentful of third grade. It has changed my previously confident, happy kid into a nervous wreck with dwindling self esteem."

    - Kelli K., a parent in Indiana


    Email NEA's High Standards-Fair Testing team for more information about Time To Teach, Time to Learn resources or to share stories from your local organizing efforts.