Reducing tests requires action by General Assembly
Significantly reducing the number of state-mandated standardized tests here in North Carolina will require action by the General Assembly, North Carolina State Superintendent June Atkinson told parents at last week’s MecklenburgACTS parent meeting.
The parents who attended the meeting focused their remarks less on the tests themselves than on the large amount of time that many schools spend preparing for the tests, and on the way that teacher and principal anxieties about test scores are passed on to children – sometimes explicitly, sometimes not. Some parents noted that the intense focus on testing and test scores had prompted them to move children to charter or private schools.
Dr. Atkinson predicted that some of those pressures will ease when the state Board of Education votes at its April meeting to eliminate Standard 6 and Standard 8 from the state evaluation forms. Those standards, which went into effect in 2012, made test score growth a mandatory part of every teacher and principal evaluation, and prompted both an expansion of testing and increased pressure on individual teachers and principals to raise test scores.
But while the change may reduce some of the pressure, Dr. Atkinson noted, several recently-passed state laws continue to give standardized test scores a central role in assessing students, schools and teachers, which makes it difficult to reduce the number of tests.
The Read to Achieve legislation requires that third grade students pass the reading test or an equivalent in order to be promoted to fourth grade, and also requires that students be regularly tested in reading the K-2 grades (currently most schools administer the state-recommended Reading 3-D assessments).
Additional state legislation requires teachers to have high growth scores in order to officially mentor other teachers, which makes it difficult to eliminate many of the North Carolina Final Exams that have been added to middle and high school courses.
The General Assembly-mandated A-F school grading system is based almost exclusively on test score proficiency. While it does not add any tests to the calendar, it dramatically raises the stakes on existing tests.
In addition, many districts mandate additional standardized tests, such as the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests administered in CMS.
Much work lies ahead.
Charlotte-area parents will have a chance to comment on proposed changes to the state testing system at an April 26 meeting at Mallard Creek High School. The recently passed Every Students Succeeds Act has given states some greater flexibility in designing assessments, including the possibility of piloting standards based on year-round performance, rather than a single set of tests. Stay tuned for more information.
North Carolina students are currently required to take the following standardized tests:
Federal: Standardized tests currently mandated by the federal government
English, Math End of Grade (EOG)
Grades 5 and 8
Biology, Math I, English II EOC (End-of-Course)
State: Additional standardized tests mandated by state legislation
Reading (state recommends mClass Reading 3-D)
English Beginning of Grade (BOG)
Social Studies North Carolina Final Exam (NCFE)
Grades 3-4 and 6-7
English I, II, IV (NCFE)
Math II, III, Discrete, Pre-Calculus (NCFE)
World History, History I, II, Civics and Economics (NCFE)
CTE Final Exams
ACT – Grade 11
ACT WorkKeys – Grade 12 CTE students
CMS Local: Additional standardized tests required by CMS
English and Math Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) 3 times/year