CHAPEL HILL – Gov. Pat McCrory is calling for the North Carolina State Board of Education to re-examine its approach to standardized testing—and local school officials are also weighing in on how much might be too much.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Executive Director of Testing and Program Evaluation Diane Villwock says each school is given a series of standardized tests as required by the federal government. These include reading, math, and science for third through eighth grade, along with one test for each of those subjects in high school.
“This year for the first time, the state added the Measures of Student Learning,” she says. “That was a large increase in a number of tests. So, for the Chapel Hill district, we went from handling 10,000 exams a year ago to 26,000 this year.”
According to a report from WRAL, 30 new tests were given to public school students in grades four through 12 this past school year, bringing the total number of standardized tests to 194. McCrory says teachers should be given more time to teach, not preparing students for “test after test.”
But Villwock says The Measures of Student Learning, or MSL’s, are being used in place of, not in addition to, comprehensive final exams for high schools.
“For example, with chemistry, they used to have a final exam, and now we’re using a state version rather than a district version,” Villwock says.
Villwock says the increase in the number of tests for students is at the middle school level, where comprehensive final exams previously didn’t exist.
“For them, it felt like much more of an add-on than it felt like at the high school,” she says.
With the new system in place, Villwock says McCrory’s opinion should be taken into consideration, but it’s too early to make any definitive conclusions.
“I don’t disagree that we need to look at this,” he says. “Anytime you do something large and new, it needs deep review. If he’s looking at this in the context of kids being given too many tests, perhaps I believe that at middle school, but I don’t believe it at high school.”
Villwock says she’s concerned with the quality of the MSLs more than the quantity.
“We need to get to where teachers look at those as a good representation of their content,” she says. “I think that part’s really important.”
Although the requirement for testing comes from the federal level, Villwock says the tests are made and reviewed by teachers and curriculum experts.