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.
Since the launch of that campaign, we have scored several important wins for our students, including:
- The More Learning, Less Testing Act of 207 (House Bill 461/Senate Bill 452) sets a 2.2% cap on the amount of instructional time that could be used annually for mandated standardized testing (the cap is 2.3% in eighth grade). The Act will eliminate an estimated 730 hours across 18 districts when the cap goes into effect during the 2018–2019 school year. The Act also creates 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. There is much work to be done at the local level; for every hour of state mandated testing, there are five hours of district mandated testing.
- The Protect Our Schools Act of 2017 (House Bill 978/Senate Bill 871) 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. While Gov. Hogan vetoed the bill to protect his school privatization agenda, the General Assembly overrode his veto before the end of the 2017 legislative session.
- House Bill 548/Senate Bill 667, which also passed in 2017, ensures that early childhood educators are consulted before counties implement the Early Learning Assessment. During its pilot year, in many counties educators found that the assessment as implemented required hundreds of hours of data entry without commensurate payoff in improving or informing instruction.
- In 2016, House Bill 657/Senate Bill 794 changed 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.
- Also in 2016, House Bill 412/Senate Bill 533 required school districts to publicly disclose all mandated tests and how much time they take away from instruction each year.
While we have made great progress in putting an end to over-testing and guaranteeing less testing and more learning for our students, educators will remain vigilant to ensure that classroom instructional time is protected from counterproductive increases in mandated testing.
How You Can Help
“This year’s PARCC scores are a reflection of the fact that our schools are underfunded. When you have class sizes of more than 30 kids to a teacher, when you have high teacher turnover rates because we underpay educators, and when you don’t address the non-academic barriers to learning in our communities of high poverty, you see achievement gaps persist. It’s not enough to talk about test scores—kids are never going to test their way out of poverty. We need more funding in our public schools to meet the needs of every child, and until then you’re going to keep seeing the same results," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
“Today is a huge step in rolling back the disruptive and counterproductive over-testing culture in our schools. By eliminating more than 700 hours of unnecessary district-mandated testing across the state, our kids will get back days—and in some cases weeks—of instruction time to learn well-rounded skills and gain valuable problem solving ability," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
“Between the More Learning, Less Testing Act and the Protect Our Schools Act, the legislature has put Maryland schools in a position to show that our children are more than a test score. The overemphasis on testing has failed to close achievement gaps for the last two decades. It’s not enough to know that some students perform worse than others—we need to know why. Now Maryland is a national leader in refocusing time and resources on the kind of learning opportunities that truly help kids thrive in school," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
“Today was a huge day for public education in Maryland—and all supporters of our neighborhoods schools thank the General Assembly for overriding Gov. Hogan’s misguided veto. The Protect Our Schools Act will position our schools to improve learning opportunities and student outcomes for years to come, while protecting them from failed, top-down privatization ideas that put corporate interests before our students," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
“Gov. Hogan’s veto of the Protect Our Schools Act isn’t out of left field, but it’s certainly out-of-touch. It’s profoundly frustrating that the governor refuses to stand with parent, educator, and civil rights groups in support of a smarter, more transparent approach to holding schools accountable, and instead stands with Betsy DeVos in attempting to privatize our public schools. It’s also inconsistent with the bipartisan agreement that an over-reliance on standardized testing has led our schools astray from what really matters for our kids," said MSEA President Betty Weller.