The Obama administration, this past week, asked the Education Department to review its policies and determine any places where it may have contributed to overemphasis on testing and the loss of instructional time. The key actions set forth by the Administration are as follows:
- Financial support for states to develop and use better, less burdensome tests
- Expertise to state and school districts looking to reduce time spent on testing
- Flexibility from federal mandates and greater support to innovate and reduce testing
- A reduction in the reliance on student test scores in federal rules and executive actions
These four overarching priorities include the following specific details:
Financial support for states includes a plan for all states to receive resources to review and eliminate unnecessary tests and come up with new ones that actually create data that can inform instruction. In other words, it creates a check of assessments and makes sure they are high quality, tied to state standards, and have a clear use and purpose. This also means more money, $403 million, will be set aside for a budget for all states to help implement and ensure students are college and career ready upon graduation.
The second category on expertise for reducing testing time, has several components as well. This includes guidance for all states and districts on how to use funds to support high-quality learning and teaching, and how to use testing as a learning tool. In addition there will be assistance tools, and sharing of tools already available such as CCSSO’s Framework for Reducing the Burden and Improving Quality of Assessments and Achieve’s Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts. Local educator expertise on assessments and improving the quality and quantity of tests will also be tapped.
Flexibility and greater support to innovate and reduce testing has components such as supporting subjects and grades where there are no assessments, allowing for more innovative approaches to testing and waiving federal standards that do not work, and increasing the peer review process. There is also administration encouragement of new assessments.
The final priority is the reduction in reliance on test scores for evaluation of teacher preparation programs and evaluation of teachers. The Administration will provide states flexibility on how to weigh the results of statewide standardized tests and measures of student learning more broadly in any teacher preparation accountability system that it develops. In addition, the Administration has adjusted its policies to provide greater flexibility to states in determining how much weight to ascribe to statewide standardized test results in educator evaluation systems required under the Administration’s ESEA flexibility policy. Loosely translated, this means that the administration believes in reducing the emphasis on teacher effectiveness being based solely on standardized test scores. Rather, they say that this flexibility should allow for states to improve their own method of evaluation of teachers, such as surveys of parents and students and peer/administrator observations.
For more information, see Fact Sheet: Testing Action Plan