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King gives states advice on testing.

It's well known that American students take a lot of standardized tests. In fact, one estimate states that students take an average of eight standardized tests per year, according to a study by the nonprofit Council of Great City Schools.

In October 2015, President Obama and the Department of Education called on states to scale back standardized testing through new testing guidelines called President Obama's Testing Action Plan.

Video and Tips

To follow up with that effort, on February 2, Acting U.S. Department of Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. released a video and a statement with new guidance for states. The purpose is to help states identify sources of federal funding to eliminate redundancy and ensure the efficacy and quality of standardized tests. In his announcement, King noted the importance of balance.

"High-quality assessments give parents, educators and students useful information about whether students are developing the critical thinking and problem solving skills they need to succeed in life," said King in a news release. "But there has to be a balance, and despite good intentions, there are too many places around the country where the balance still isn't quite right... Good assessments can actually be part of great learning experiences, but simplistic, poorly constructed, or redundant tests just take away from critical learning time, without providing useful information."

Some of the key ideas King provides to help states and school districts ensure quality standardized tests in the future include:

1. Conducting assessment audits, and eliminating low-quality or redundant assessments

2. Facilitating professional development for educators to enhance the use of assessment results (including performance-based assessments) to improve instruction

3. Increasing transparency and timeliness of information for students and parents

4. Improving the quality of assessments (including replacing low-level test items with high-quality performance tasks).

The Department of Education also mentioned two examples of districts that are reducing unnecessary testing: the state of Tennessee and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Also, the DOE will be hosting "office hours" for any state or district needing further guidance on scaling back testing.

Sources: Washington Post, 10/24/15; PBS 10/25/15,, 2/2/16

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Title Annotation:Tools for Schools; John B. King, Jr.
Publication:Curriculum Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2016
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