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Report looks at time (a lot) students spend on standardized tests

LA School Report | March 17, 2015

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student computer testThe debate over the value of standardized tests in K-12 education is nothing new, but the topic seems to have reached a boiling point lately: Protest movements are forming against standardized tests, a debate is ongoing in Congress about tying test results to federal funding and the struggle in LA Unified continues, aimed at meeting the online capabilities required to smoothly administer the new Smarter Balanced tests.

Amid the furor comes a new report by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) that cuts right the heart of the matter: exactly how much time do students in America spend preparing for and taking standardized tests?

While the report simply presents the numbers without judgement, it did come to some head-turning conclusions by gathering data from several different studies and surveys of large and suburban school districts. Among the findings:

  • Students take mandated state and district standardized tests an average of once per month, accounting for approximately 1.6 percent of instructional time per year.
  • Students take an average of 113 standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade.
  • Eleventh grade students undergo the most testing, with one surveyed district reporting that its students spend up to 27 days of the year taking tests.
  • A survey of large districts shows at least 23 distinct purposes for tests.
  • On average, districts require more tests than states, K–2 students take three times more K–2 district exams than state exams, and high school students take twice as many district exams as state exams.
  • 49 percent of U.S. parents think their children take too many standardized tests.
  •  Urban students spend more time taking district-mandated exams than their suburban peers, with high school urban students spending 266 percent more time.

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