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Pendulum Could Swing Again For Standardized Tests in NC Schools

Nchole Yeo

State Superintendent Mark Johnson and the Department of Public Instruction are taking steps to reduce the amount of time North Carolina students spend taking standardized tests. Johnson says the moves are meant to help relieve stress on students.

“I visited a second grade classroom at the end of last school year and a second grader approached me, and I said, ‘Aren't you excited about going to the third grade next year?’” Johnson recalled. “Unfortunately, the second grader said, ‘No, third grade is all about testing.’"

The Department of Public Instruction plans to reduce the number of questions on students' end-of-grade exams required by the state, especially in early grades. The Department will shorten math and science exams this spring and on language arts exams next year, in an effort to shave an hour off of the time students spend taking the tests.

Johnson says the state has been moving toward more school accountability in recent decades with the use of assessments to gauge student progress and increasingly higher stakes placed on tests.

“Really the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of over-testing,” Johnson said.

Johnson says the new measures will help to fulfill his campaign promise to address what many parents and teachers have come to see as a problem with standardized tests. In November, Johnson surveyed more than 42,000 parents about standardized tests and 78 percent said their child takes too many tests.

Policies around how teachers administer tests will also change – to give teachers more flexibility in how they instruct students to take tests and to no longer require classes to be monitored by volunteer proctors during testing.

The Department of Public Instruction has also applied to the federal Department of Education to receive authority to develop an innovative assessment pilot to further reform testing, according to Deputy Superintendent of Innovation Eric Hall.

Meanwhile, state education officials plan to work with local school leaders to reduce other testing not required by state or federal law. Johnson says in some cases, schools can use personalized-learning technology to give teachers feedback on student progress in lieu of high-stakes tests.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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