Over the past week President Barack Obama stirred educators with the thought of lowering the time students spend on standardized test to no more than 2% of their class time.
Local school officials, however, say that testing is not the only issue, nor is it the biggest.
“The problem with standardized tests is that we have gotten away from what they are intended to do,” said Greg Little, superintendent for Mount Airy City Schools.
He explained the tests are taken to measure a student’s academic growth and comprehension of a subject, but the tests are given at the end of the year with the students ready to move up to the next grade level. Little believes this doesn’t help educators measure how a student is comprehending the lessons being taught throughout the course of the year.
On a local level, both school systems, MACS and Surry County Schools, do their own form of testing to measure student performance, through formative and summative assessments.
The two systems are participating in a two-year proof-of-concept study to possibly lower the amount of time students spend taking tests each year. The study allows students to take shorter online tests throughout the year that provides real-time feedback to teachers.
Three six-minute tests are taken at separate times during the school year. The final EOG (end-of-grade test) is also reduced to two hours instead of three, in this study.
Travis Reeves, SCS superintendent, pointed out, “It could be 2020 before we see results from this study.” The end of 2016-17 school year will be the last year the state will collect data to analyze from the study. According to Reeves, the change in the curriculum for literature could possibly affect the study and construe results.
The EOGs and end-of-course (EOC) tests begin with the third grade. Students are mandated to take two to three tests, spending nearly 3 hours on each in grades 3-8.
In high school, each student must take a standardized test, North Carolina final exams after each course. Meaning for the average high school student with four classes each semester, the teens have eight standardized test a year.
In 2015-16 the state allowed schools to waive the North Carolina final exam and the Analysis of Student Work exams. For those schools that used this waiver, the time spent in testing could be reduced by 50-70 percent in grades 3-12. However, that waiver runs out state-wide after the current school year.
“Hopefully they extend it,” said Little.
Both superintendents tend to agree that the current state system of testing students does not depict the students’ performance in time for teachers to change their course of action to find different ways to reach the kids.
Reach Eva Queen at (336) 415-4739 or on Twitter @MtAiryNewsEva