How Much Testing is Too Much?

Today, as reported by the New York Times, ( http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/us/obama-administration-calls-for-limits-on-testing-in-schools.html) President Obama announced that “no child would spend more than 2% of classroom instruction time taking tests” and he called on congress to reduce “over-testing” as they contemplate the reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act. He is in effect, putting a cap on testing time allowed in grades 3–8 as required by federal law.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was quick to praise the President and remind New Yorkers that he himself had already accomplished this feat by releasing his own statement that said, “In 2014, we banned standardized testing for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, capped test preparation to two percent of learning time, and required the State Education Department to help districts eliminate unnecessary standardized tests for all other students.”

Cuomo’s entire press release can be found here: (https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/statement-governor-andrew-m-cuomo-president-obamas-testing-action-plan)

There are many people besides Cuomo lauding the President for what appears at first glance to be a recognition that his draconian test and punish system called Race to the Top may have been an overreach.

I for one am not falling for it.

In New York, as Cuomo has reminded us, we already have a two percent cap on time spent on standardized testing. What does that actually mean? New York requires 180 school days and an average school day runs about 6.5 hours. Do the math and the result is 180 x 6.5 x 2% = 23.4 hours of testing. So, by law, we cannot exceed 23.4 hours of standardized testing in grades 3 — 8.

This begs the question — how much time do kids in grades 3–8 spend on the state tests in English Language Arts and math? If you are a general education student, you will spend roughly nine hours in a testing room for both the ELA and math tests. If you are a student with a learning disability (SWD), and you have a testing accommodation of “double time,” you get to sit in a testing location for eighteen hours. As insane as that seems, it is still 5.4 hours short of the time allowed by law. A 2% cap isn’t a step forward, it’s a giant leap backward.

This announcement from the President is not to be celebrated. It should be considered a condemnation of the entire federal education system our children have been enduring since the implementation of No Child Left Behind in 2001.

How much testing is too much? I don’t know the magic number that will give the state education departments and the U.S. Department of Education the data they supposedly need in order to determine the effectiveness of the schools, but I do know that nine hours of testing is too much for a nine-year-old, eighteen hours is abusive for nine-year-olds with a learning disability, and 23.4 hours of testing for a child at any age is criminal.

It’s time to put a cap on the political nonsense and the flip-flop of “Fed-led-Ed” that has cost our public schools billions of dollars and countless hours of lost instruction time over flawed and failed over-testing. We can take back local control of our classrooms — one child, one parent, one teacher, and one concerned citizen at a time.

We cannot be swayed by constantly shifting and misleading political winds during an election season. We must continue to opt out. The futures of our public schools and every child in them depend on it.

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