Some changes in testing are looming on the horizon, one brought to you by the State Department of Education, and another—a less certain one—proposed in the General Assembly.
The department announced last week it will cut the time spent on science and social studies tests in the third and fourth grades by 50 percent, while focusing more on reading assessments.
As the department works to finalize its Every Student Succeeds Act draft plan, which is expected to be submitted to the federal government in April, it has been reviewing more than 2,000 pieces of feedback on the plan, including a thorough review of their plan by TEA.
The need to reduce the testing requirements for the two subjects in the lower grades and boost some parts of the reading test were part of that input, said Candice McQueen, Tennessee Education Commissioner.
“Tennessee educators have been fighting for years to end the punitive testing regime in our schools and focus on the assessments that work and make sense,” said TEA President Barbara Gray. “We welcome the proposed reduction in science and social studies testing. We believe it’s a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to cut the total time spent on preparing for and administering state-mandated tests.”
In the wake of last year’s TNReady test debacle, Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) filed a bill authorizing LEAs to use the ACT, ACT Aspire or SAT suites of tests instead of the TCAP, TNReady, and end of course exams, to test math and English language arts in grades nine through 12.
Calling for “greater flexibility” for local schools, Butt said the idea for HB 617 came as a result of meeting with teachers and principals across the state who support the change.
According to the bill, school districts would be required to submit a notice to the Department of Education indicating the grade level and subject in which the approved testing alternative will be used, as well as notify the parents or guardians of all students in grades nine through 12 about the use of the approved testing alternative.
“There have been so many frustrations and complications caused by our new assessment system in Tennessee for the past few years, from the “roll out” to the availability of computers, to the fact that elementary school children need hours and hours “keyboarding,” to the fact that there are often not enough computers available, to the fact that accountability of teachers is a nightmare when the moving target keeps changing,” Butt said.
Butt added that the Maury County director of schools testified to the validity of making this change in the House Education committee last year and is committed to helping Butt and Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), the bill’s Senate sponsor, in making this option possible.