Rep. Israel Joins Long Island Superintendents to Reduce Student Testing
Melville, NY —Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) introduced legislation to reduce the number of tests students are required to take each year. The Tackling Excessive Standardized Testing (TEST) Act would allow states to choose an alternative testing regiment for students in grades 3 through 8. The legislation was drafted based on feedback from local superintendents in order to make testing more effective and reflect students’ abilities without subjecting them to frequent over testing.
Rep. Israel said, “It is generally understood that some testing is essential to helping our students learn what is being taught, but requiring them to take too many tests is stifling their creativity. Classroom time should be devoted to learning knowledge, interacting with peers and spending time understanding concepts rather than just memorizing materials for testing. That’s why I sat down with Long Island superintendents to draft legislation that would allow states to choose an alternative testing schedule for students that curbs the amount of tests they have to take while still reflecting their abilities and the effectiveness of school districts.”
Dr. Thomas Dolan, Superintendent of Great Neck schools, said, “The TEST Act represents a positive step towards decreasing the number of tests students take during their earliest years in school; tests taken at the expense of very important teaching and learning. Congressman Israel identified early on that a way to improve our schools is to ‘teach more, and test less.’”
Dr. Donald James, Superintendent of Commack schools, said, “There is no doubt that this legislation has the potential to have a positive impact on every student in the country and is the first step to giving all schools time to focus on becoming, and in many cases, continuing to be among the finest in the world."
The TEST Act consists of three sections. The first section sets the standard that students in grades 3 through 8 would only be required to take one test per year: English Language Arts (ELA) in grades 3, 5, and 7, and math in grades 4, 6, and 8. Currently, students have to take both ELA and math tests each year.
The second section calls for schools that rank in the top 15 percent in the state on all of the ELA or math tests to be allowed to move to a four-year testing cycle on the respective tests. In addition, the tests must have a 75 percent passing rate based on the raw scores. For these schools, ELA would be tested in grades 3 and 7, and math in grades 4 and 8.
This part also directs the U.S. Department of Education to develop an alternative measure, within one year of enactment of the legislation, by which schools can also move to this testing regiment if they show a certain level of progress.
Finally, current law states that, for the first three years students with limited English proficiency are in U.S. schools, they may take these mandated tests in their own language. After that, they must take them in English. No matter when they entered the U.S. school system, the score is counted in measures of school accountability. Under this legislation, for one calendar year after a student enters the U.S. school system, test results on these mandated tests would not be included in such accountability measures.
A study published in 2013 by the America Federation of Teachers found that the time students spend taking tests ranged from 20 to 50 hours per year in heavily tested grades. The same study found that students can spend 60 to 110 hours per year in test prep alone. Additionally, a 2007 study by the Center for Education Policy found that 44 percent of school districts cut time spent on science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch or recess in order to increase the amount of time spent in elementary schools on English language arts and or math.