From a student’s point of view, standardized testing is stressful, particularly in the elementary school years. It can also be very disruptive to the material students are normally learning. When I was a kid, any kind of testing put me on edge, especially when the tests were hours long. Some testing is certainly necessary as a source of information about our education system and what it’s getting right or wrong. Still, testing takes up a substantial amount of school resources—both time and money—and anyone with a stake in our schools should take an interest in why we do so much of it.
Before we can decide if there is too much or too little testing, we should lay out some facts:
· Missouri spends roughly $30 million a year on standardized tests
· On average, students spend 20–25 hours per school year taking standardized tests. Over the course of grades 3–12, that totals out to be 180–225 hours of testing.
· Grades 3–8 are required to take the yearly MAP (Missouri Assessment Program) test which assesses students understanding of concepts in language arts and math. Grades 5 and 8 are also tested in science.
· Grades 4, 8, and 12 are administered the NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) which tests all students in the areas of math, science, reading, and writing.
· High school juniors are required by the State Board of Education to take the ACT (at no charge)
· High school students must pass a personal finance assessment in order to graduate. This assessment can be taken by students who are enrolled in a personal finance course or students who wish to test out of the course and still receive the half credit.
· End of Course (EOC) evaluations are administered to students enrolled in Algebra I and II, Biology, English I and II, Geometry, Biology, American History, Physical Science, and Government courses.
Rep. Kurt Bahr of St. Charles is sponsoring a bill that would allow students to opt out of Missouri standardized testing if they or their parents request it. What would this accomplish, though? Students will simply have to wait for school to resume while other students take the tests they opted out of. And if the tests are administered only to the students who want to take them, they wouldn’t be a representative sample of the student body.
Is there a better way we can retrieve this information and not overwhelm students and teachers? Knowing how well our students and schools are doing, and what should be improved on, is important. However, we need to remember that the only “right” amount of testing is that which gives us the information we need in the most efficient way possible, so that teachers can spend more time teaching and students can spend more time learning. Determining the purpose and use of each test might be the key.