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Moving forward to create better student testing

There appears to be a state and national awakening to the problem of overtesting.

After a decades-long push to test students under the guise of creating accountability in our public schools, finally we have a reversal. There appears to be a state and national awakening to the problem of overtesting. Both Minnesota and our nation succumbed to the pressures that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top legislation put on our schools. Last session, the Senate Education Committee addressed and attempted to eliminate some of the state’s required standardized testing. Unfortunately these attempts faltered in the face of federal opposition.

Sen. Chuck Wiger

Last weekend the White House announced that it was time to stop the national trend of overtesting and suggested a cap of no more than 2 percent of class time dedicated to testing. This is a welcome message to legislatures and schools eager for change.

In fact, the Senate Education Committee held a lengthy hearing on this very topic this week. We heard extensive testimony on a new report from EPIC – the Educator Policy Innovation Center, titled ‘Testing Better: How to Improve Minnesota’s Use of Assessments in Education.’ [PDF]

EPIC’s report provides an in-depth proposal to change our state’s current testing system to one that uses fewer and better state tests. These newer tests would also remove the pressure the current system exerts to narrow curriculum.

Our view is that Minnesota students deserve a more robust curriculum; they deserve to spend more time learning, and less time preparing for tests. Finally, we believe in a system that provides valuable feedback on testing, which will therefore benefit the student, teacher, and community as a whole.

As the authors of EPIC’s report so wisely write, “Education is a human act, with educators creating an environment and providing the support for students to learn.” We must keep this in mind as we move forward to create a testing system that will be better for all.

State Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, chairs the Senate Education Committee.

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