Better, Fairer, Fewer

Introducing a Testing Bill of Rights.

Introducing A Testing Bill of Rights

For many, spring means March Madness or the start of baseball season. But for students and teachers across the country it also means the end-of-the-year testing season. High-quality tests that accurately assess student learning and help teachers improve are an essential part of education, but standardized testing in some states and districts has gotten out of control: Students are tested as frequently as twice per month and an average of once per month. Many students take up to 20 standardized tests a year and spend countless additional hours on ineffective test prep.

Tests should serve as a tool to identify areas of improvement to make sure every child has the opportunity to be ready for college or the workforce and to identify persistent learning gaps between communities. But too often they don’t. And as a result students, parents, and teachers have been unsatisfied with the current system.

To help change that, the Center for American Progress, in partnership with National PTA; the New York Urban League; the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP); Higher Achievement New York (HANY); Educators 4 Excellence; and America Achieves has launched a Testing Bill of Rights to help ensure that there are better, fairer, and fewer standardized tests. The Testing Bill of Rights outlines the need to accurately measure student learning in a way that is useful for parents and teachers and less burdensome for students. It is also focused on the goal of ensuring tests serve as a meaningful tool to identify learning gaps and areas of improvement to make sure every child has an opportunity to be ready for college or the workforce.

Last year, Congress finally got its act together and passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, an overhaul of No Child Left Behind. The new law preserves annual tests, but reduces the stakes of state tests and gives states and districts considerably more flexibility over student assessment, which means now is a good time for states and school districts to reexamine their approaches to testing. And this morning, Delaware Governor Jack Markell (D) summed up the need for states to revisit testing: “To ensure that all students are prepared to succeed, states and school systems must strike the right balance of requiring effective assessments that help track student progress while eliminating unnecessary and ineffective tests and making sure testing does not take up any more instructional time than necessary.”

But as states transition to higher standards, more needs to be done at state and local levels to address overtesting and provide greater transparency about the purposes of each test. Students in Kindergarten through second grade are tested three times as much on district exams as state exams. Using the Testing Bill of Rights to evaluate the purpose of each test will help avoid redundant testing. To sign the Testing Bill of Rights and get more information on how we can test better visit

BOTTOM LINE: Tests should be used to inform instruction, provide parents and communities with information about student progress, and allow teachers to diagnose and help their students. Instead of opting out of assessments altogether, we should work to make them better, fairer, and fewer.

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