News: Quick Takes

Johnson plans to ease burden of standardized tests on N.C. students

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, pictured here in his office. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, pictured here in his office. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

After receiving feedback from parents and teachers, State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced several steps toward making standardized tests less of a headache for teachers, students, and their parents.

The steps taken this year include:

  • Reducing the number of questions on tests
  • Reducing the time students must sit for tests
  • Changing testing policies to reduce the stress at schools around testing time
  • Working with local leaders to reduce the number of locally required tests
  • Pushing to eliminate tests not required by Washington, D.C.
  • Giving students other ways to show progress if they have a bad test day
  • Using the appropriate amount of technology as a tool for students and teachers to personalize learning and eliminate tests

“We are just getting started reforming testing in North Carolina’s public schools,” Johnson said in a news release. “The changes I am announcing today will be a major step in reducing outdated testing methods to measure students’ progress, and the future is bright for North Carolina’s public schools.”

Last year, Johnson sent a survey to parents and teachers looking for their feedback on standardized testing. More than 42,000 parents responded to the survey, with 78 percent saying their children take too many tests. Teachers were also feeling the burden of testing with 76 percent saying their students were being tested too much.

Changes are coming this year to testing, but, Johnson said, the work isn’t done. He plans to continue working with school districts and education leaders to devise ways to combat overtesting in public schools.

Terry Stoops, vice president of research and director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, said Johnson is on the right track, but it’s likely going to take a more radical approach to create a more productive and efficient system to evaluate student achievement.

“North Carolina’s testing program is a grab bag of classroom, school, district, state, and occasionally federal achievement tests,” Stoops said. “Perhaps it is time to build a new assessment system from the ground up.”