Politics & Government

School groups call for better and sometimes fewer tests

Two national organizations representing many of the nation’s public school districts declared on Wednesday that they’re taking action to make sure students don't get stuck having to take unnecessary tests.

The announcement from the Council of Great City Schools and the Council of Chief State School Officers took aim at poor-quality assessments that waste teachers’ and students’ time.

The state school chiefs group, which represents top K-12 officials in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, said it would publish lists of all state assessments, help districts eliminate redundant tests and make sure that the tests students do take are of good quality.

The group of large city school districts made a similar promise. It also said it would help make sure that the results of tests are used to improve instruction and would curtail “counterproductive test prep practices.”

The Council of Great City Schools is made up of 67 urban districts across the country, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Sacramento, Kansas City and Fort Worth.

The two groups in a news release said good tests provide “an academic checkup so students, parents, and educators understand how each child is progressing toward goals, regardless of race, income, or language. Without assessments given at least once a year, educational leaders would not have the information they need to know about who is learning, and who is not.”

But it also said that tests should be aligned with standards to prepare students by the end of 12th grade for work or college, and they should measure “students’ abilities to think critically, synthesize material from multiple sources, analyze problems and justify responses.”

The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association developed the Common Core State Standards starting in 2009.

Last year, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, called for a moratorium on the consequences associated with Common Core assessments until the standards are fully implemented.

In a statement on Wednesday, Weingarten said: "The tide on testing is turning. That's why we see state school officers and city superintendents wading in and acknowledging the damage done by overtesting.” She said that the Obama administration should make changes to the high-stakes consequences of annual tests.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the Education Department would support the new efforts to improve assessments. He acknowledged that “in some places, tests _ and preparation for them _ are dominating the calendar and culture of schools and causing undue stress for parents and educators.” And he added: “I welcome the action announced today by state and district leaders, which will bring new energy and focus to improving assessment of student learning.”