Standardized testing takes far too much time away from learning, preventing students from developing well-rounded skills and a love for school. Standardized testing takes away the opportunity for students to learn about art, music, finance, and physical education—subjects that keep kids engaged and give them a well-rounded education.
And it’s not just the tests themselves—hours upon hours of test prep, practice tests, and even “pretend tests” to check testing technology results in fewer class projects and field trips and more stressed out and burned out students. Students in Maryland will take more than 200 standardized tests during their time in school—with totals exceeding 50 hours a year in some grade levels.
Educators know that too much standardized testing doesn’t help their students do better in school—or in life. In a recent poll, 95% of Maryland educators—a near-unanimous consensus—said that there’s too much standardized testing in schools. That’s why we are strong proponents of guaranteeing that more time is spent on learning and instruction and less on testing.
Our Work with the General Asembly to Reduce Over-Testing
Following our Time to Learn efforts in the 2015 General Assembly session—including passing a bill to form a statewide Commission to Review Maryland's Use of Assessments in Public Schools—MSEA launched our Less Testing, More Learning campaign to highlight the need to reduce mandated standardized testing. By empowering the voices of teachers and education support professionals in TV, radio, and digital ads, letters to the editor, press conferences, and media interviews, as well as emails, phone calls, and lobby meetings with legislators, we moved the testing issue squarely onto the General Assembly’s to-do list.
We scored some important wins for our students, including changing the highly disruptive and largely unhelpful Kindergarten Readiness Assessment to a sampling test, vastly reducing the number of kindergarteners and their teachers affected by the test; requiring school districts to publicly disclose all mandated tests and how much time they take away from instruction each year; and unanimously passing a bill in the House of Delegates to limit mandated standardized testing at 2% of annual instruction time. The latter bill did not pass in the Senate, which wanted to wait for recommendations from the state testing commission.
The key recommendation from the commission was for districts to create District Committees on Assessments—which would bring educators, parents, and district officials together to study existing assessments and decide on ones that weren’t necessary. But just five districts accepted that recommendation, with many saying there was no local problem, despite the fact that for every hour of state mandated testing, there are five hours of district mandated testing.
It’s time to put an end to over-testing and guarantee less testing and more learning for our students. In 2017, educators are asking legislators to pass three key bills to reduce over-testing:
- The Less Testing, More Learning Act of 207 (House Bill 461/Senate Bill 452), which would set a 2% cap on the amount of instructional time that could be used annually for mandated standardized testing. Click here to email your legislators and ask them to support the bill.
- The Protect Our Schools Act of 2017 (House Bill 978/Senate Bill 871), which reshapes how Maryland judges its schools to emphasize test scores less and incentivize schools to focus more on things like school climate, class and caseload size, and offering a broad, challenging curriculum. It also prevents Gov. Hogan and his State Board of Education from doubling down on using test scores to identify public schools as failing so they can convert them into charters schools or close them down in favor of private school vouchers. Click here to email your legislators and ask them to support the bill.
- House Bill 548/Senate Bill 667, which enacts a moratorium on the Early Learning Assessment, which is being piloted in pre-k and Head Start classes this year, and which requires hundreds of hours of data entry for payoff in improving or informing instruction.
How You Can Help
“We have a once in a generation opportunity for Maryland to redefine and improve public school success, with less emphasis on testing and a greater focus on closing opportunity gaps,” said Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association. “We applaud the House for showing leadership in this critical moment and look forward to working with the Senate as they move forward to do the same.”
“Educators across the state of Maryland applaud the House of Delegates for their leadership in addressing our over-testing crisis. For years, elected officials and school leaders have waited while test after test piled up on the desks of teachers and students, narrowing curriculum and erasing instruction time. This unanimous vote today sends a strong signal that educator voices have been heard and the time for waiting is over. We now turn our attention to the Senate as we work to put in place a commonsense, reasonable safeguard against over-testing," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
"This is an important step in helping to reduce over-testing for our students. While educators are disappointed that the Commission process did not result in more immediate and far-reaching recommendations to lessen the time and resources spent on mandated assessments, we are encouraged by several of the ideas proposed and are eager to work with local school systems to put them into action," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
"Due to the KRA, students lost out on instruction time during perhaps the most crucial learning period in their school experience—when they should be forming important learning habits and learning to play well with others. This bill will restore time for thousands of our youngest learners to play, learn, and develop a love for school," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
Today, the Maryland House of Delegates unanimously passed legislation to limit local, state, and federal mandated standardized testing at 2% of annual instruction time—or a little more than 20 hours a year (HB 141). The forward movement follows the unanimous passage of legislation to change the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) into a sampling test last Friday.