Testing Overload in America’s Schools

The goals of this study were to obtain a better understanding of how much time students spend taking tests and to identify the degree to which the tests are mandated by districts or states. The study focused on 14 urban and suburban districts in seven states during the 2013-14 school year. Researchers examined district and state assessment calendars and supplemented that information with correspondence with school district and state central-office staff, along with other publicly available information. From these data, the researchers identified the number and frequency of district and state-required standardized assessments for students and the time it took them to take the assessments. Some of the findings found in the report include: districts require more tests than states and students were tested on standardized assessments, on average, about once per month. Based on the findings and analysis, the report makes several recommendations on how states and districts can implement high-quality assessments that “can be a valuable tool for teachers to determine where students are struggling, for parents to understand their children’s progress and knowledge gaps, and for policymakers and advocates who need assurance that all students are receiving a high-quality education” (p. 5).

Content Comments 

This resource offers excellent content. The data collection methods are sound, as is the interpretation of the results. The author provides appropriate caveats about the limitations of the study. This is one of the few resources that succeeds in providing data on the amount of testing in schools as required by either state or district policies. The author communicates clearly with prose that is easy to read and understand. The length is appropriate, and the opening summary is very helpful. Readers will find this an extremely useful resource, especially with its supplemental recommendations provided in the report and its references to states and resources that have useful tools or lessons to share. The document’s excellent quality throughout should make this a highly effective resource, though it does not provide evidence of its effectiveness. It would benefit from an appendix indicating the instruments used in the study as well as data demonstrating their validity and reliability. Overall, this resource should be a must read for anyone working in the accountability field.