How much is too much time spent on testing in schools?
Exactly how much standardized testing are school districts subjecting students to these days? A nearly staggering amount, according to a new analysis.
“Testing More, Teaching Less: What America’s Obsession with Student Testing Costs in Money and Lost Instructional Time,” released by the American Federation of Teachers, looks closely at two unnamed medium-sized school districts — one in the Midwest and one in the East — through the prism of their standardized testing calendars.
This article is worth blogging on for two reasons:
First, my colleagues in the UK were stunned when I told them that most tests that students take in US schools are locally invented. “Doesn’t that lead to alot of wasted effort?” Perhaps so — this report seems to support my claim.
Second, I don’t find that much testing either staggering nor undesirable. Consider the results on the Testing Effect — students learn from testing. 20 hours in an academic year is not too much, if we think about testing as driving learning. We don’t know if these are good or useful tests, or if they are being used in a way that might motivate more learning, so 20 hours isn’t obviously a good thing. But it’s also not obviously a bad thing.
Consider the results of the paper presented by Michael Lee at ICER 2013 this year (and which won the “John Henry Award,” the people’s choice best paper award). They took a video game that required programming (Gidget) and added to it explicit assessments — quizzes that popped up at the end of each level, to ask you questions about what you did. They found that such assessments actually increased engagement and time-on-task. Their participants (both control and experimental) were recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, so they were paid to complete more levels. Adding assessments led to more levels completed and less time per level — that’s pretty remarkable.
Maybe what we need is not fewer tests, but better and more engaging tests.