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 morning, the Maryland Senate passed the Protect Our Schools Act—legislation to strengthen Maryland’s school accountability system and prevent Betsy DeVos-style school privatization—by a veto-proof 32-15 margin. The House of Delegates then moved tonight to send the bill to the governor's desk with a veto-proof 87-50 vote.
“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.