Standardized test and education assessment

Too much testing and too little teaching?
January 15, 2008 3:46:05 PM PST
Sixth, seventh and eighth graders in New York City sat for their English language arts tests Tuesday.It is testing season, and that brings debate over whether students undergo too much testing and not enough teaching.

Education reporter Art McFarland has more.

We visited a third-grade class at PS 199 in Maspeth, in advance of the state English language arts test, or ELA.

"Most of the things that are on the ELA, we're learning like right now," student Samyak Parajuli said.

PS 199, which got an A on the recent school progress reports, emphasizes individual student reading and comprehension skills, instead of emphasizing the skills of test-taking.

While many educators would approve of the methods used at PS 199, standardized testing is under fire from critics who question their accuracy in measuring student achievement.

For instance, in New York City last year, 56 percent of fourth graders scored proficient on the state ELS test.

But on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as "the nation's report card," only 34 percent of city fourth graders sampled scored proficient.

The city results on the eighth grade state reading test show improvement over time, while the national scores are lower and flat.

"So parents need to be very skeptical, and they need to demand that their schools are teaching more and testing less," education researcher Jacqueline Ancess said.

Ancess, of Columbia University Teachers College, says parents should start asking questions at their children's schools.

"They want to know, are their kids doing science experiments, are they going on field trips, are they doing social studies projects?" she said. "If they're not doing these things, they're not getting a rich curriculum."

Francie Alexander is chief academic officer for the Scholastic Publishing Company, and she is also on the board of the national test group.

"You want to call together parents, policy makers and the professional educators to look at all the data points," she said. "The ones they get from the state, the ones they get from the nation and sa, what are we going to do to improve student achievement in our city?"

And now, the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union, is pushing for a change in federal law to use more than test scores to measure student performance.