With concern growing over the amount of time students spend on standardized testing, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has launched a review of state and local testing practices. Gist says she wants to address complaints from parents and teachers about over-testing.
“None of us wants to test students too much, and each of us can consider ways to streamline the assessment process,” Gist wrote in a letter to superintendents announcing the review, adding that the goal is to eliminate assessments that do not advance teaching and learning.
The Rhode Island Department of Education has named the initiative “The Assessment Project.” It will include a working group of four districts, who will develop plans to streamline their assessments. The districts are North Providence, Newport, East Providence and North Kingstown.
The move follows recent comments from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said in a back-to-school blog post that he has heard concerns about testing and test preparation, including the amount of time they take up in the classroom.
"In some schools and districts, over time tests have simply been layered on top of one another, without a clear sense of strategy or direction," Duncan wrote.
Duncan stopped short of renouncing standardized testing, saying regular assessments provide important tools for teachers and schools to measure progress, but he did express concerns that the debate over standardized testing is eclipsing other issues.
"I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools – oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support, and more," Duncan wrote.
In Rhode Island, lawmakers recently imposed a moratorium on the use of standardized test scores as a requirement for high school graduation, prompting Commissioner Gist to propose a delay in the policy until at least 2020. The state has also delayed using test scores as a factor in teacher evaluations until 2017.