Testing in Public Schools is out of Control. Not improving our Schools.

The enthusiasm to test is unabated here in Colorado.  K-12 students are subjected to lots of testing, not only by their teachers and the local school district but also by the state.

Here is an analysis of test time for students in Thompson School District
Testing Time per student - Thompson School District

Problems with high-stakes testing:
1) standardized test scores poor measure of the quality of education
2) if the objective is to improve outcome … this is not working!
3) creates a “teach to the test” culture
4) time allocated to testing takes away time to learn
5) state level tests lack transparency; tests are “secure” and not available to review!
6) expensive, over $20 million dollars spent for TCAP, PARCC will be more expensive
7) teachers understand the difference between testing and learning but are not speaking out
8) Lots of special interest groups benefit on the standards and testing approach.

Here are some quotes from Alfie Kohn’s book “The Schools our Children Deserve” regarding our confusion with the value of high-stakes testing. Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting.

“a preoccupation with achievement is not only different from, but often detrimental to, a focus on learning.”

“You and I could design a test in half an hour that would be failed by most of the children, and even the adults, who took it.  Then we could hold a press conference to fulminate about the ignorance of those kids and the crisis of our schools.  But until it is clear what was on the test, how reasonable and appropriate its content, such an announcement would deserve to be ignored.”

“All that is necessary for the triumph of damaging educational policies is that good people keep silent”

For more thoughts see Alfie’s website

Some information about the Cost of Testing in Dollars

Per EdNews, “the state (Colorado) currently budgets about $34 million a year for all testing costs, including the TCAPs, science and social studies, work on “augmentations” to the PARCC tests, development of Spanish literacy assessments, alternate assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities, ACT tests and ACCESS, an English language proficiency assessment).

For the last few years CTB/McGraw-Hill LLC has created and graded the TCAP tests, here is the list of payments (source TOP Colorado Transparency Online Project – Vendor search):

2009   $18,740,667.25
2010   $18,942,058.85
2011   $18,984,945.00
2012   $19,580,348.18
2013   $17,578,894.00

About TCAP (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) tests

There is no transparency with state-level tests.  Neither the district nor the teachers have access to the tests.  Many of the questions require essay answers.  How does anyone know that the tests are scored correctly?  Who signs off of whether the tests include a reasonable collection of questions? Test scores are assumed to represent how a school or district is performing…. is this a valid assumption?

TCAP State tests are based on the Colorado Academic Standards (revised to conform to Common Core in 2010) and test students in grade 3 to 10 each spring. There is about 10 hours of testing in Reading, Writing and Mathematics.  Last spring students  in  4th, 8th  and 10th grade were also tested also in Science for about 3.5 hours.  In 2014, Science will be tested in 5th, 8th and 12th grade (1.5 hours).  Social Studies will be tested in 4th, 7th and 12th grade (1.5 hours). Beginning in spring of 2015, school districts will be converting from the TCAP tests to the PARCC tests.

About ACT

Also students take the ACT college readiness assessment test.  Colleges and universities use the ACT test as a standardized measuring stick to determine who gets admitted and who benefits from the best scholarships they have to offer. While it may not be fair, a student’s entire academic career in high school can be completely overshadowed by a single score on the ACT test. Two Pre-ACT tests (2 hours) are held in 8th grade and 10th grade, the ACT test is usually taken in 11th grade and includes English, Mathematics, Reading and Science (about 3 hours of testing).

About NAEP

There is also a national test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP provides a common yardstick for measuring the progress of students’ education across the country.
Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, U.S. history, and beginning in 2014, in Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL).

NAEP results are based on representative samples of students at grades 4, 8, and 12 for the main assessments, or samples of students at ages 9, 13, or 17 years for the long-term trend assessments.
Only one or two schools in each school district are sampled each year.


High Stakes Testing – Testing by the state to evaluate “Proficiency” of students, teachers, schools, and districts.

Lots of good information on this website, FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

“Ready or not, online tests coming to Colorado” posted at EdNews Colorado on August 20, 2013

“How much time do school districts spend on standardized testing? This much.” posted at The Washington Post by Valerie Strauss

Article posted at BehindFrenemyLines by Jason Stanford about issues with “high stakes testing” posted April 5, 2013

“the disturbing shift underway in early childhood classrooms” posted August 2, 2013 by Valerie Strauss at WashingtonPost.com

Clips from Alfie Kohn DVD
“No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning”

“Achievement vs. Learning”



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