There has been really no question that we as a state have become addicted to arbitrary standardized testing. Public school advocates have been saying that for years. Mark Johnson ran a campaign for state superintendent with test reduction as a primary platform.
And now there is this bill that has gained a lot of traction in this NCGA session: Senate Bill 621.
What this bill would do according to the News & Observer‘s recent report is:
▪ Eliminate the N.C. Final Exams starting in the 2019-20 school year. These 20+ state tests are given to students of teachers who don’t have results from a state end-of-grade (EOG) test or state end-of-course (EOC) test that can be used to evaluate their performance.
▪Replace the state EOG exams given in grades 3-8 in reading, math and science with the N.C. Check-Ins, which are shorter exams given to students three times a year in each subject. The Check-Ins are currently voluntary but would become mandatory beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
▪ Eliminate the four remaining state EOC exams for biology, English and math typically taken by high school students. They’d be replaced by the ACT now taken by all of the state’s high school juniors or by a “nationally recognized assessment of high school achievement and college readiness.” This change would go into effect in the 2020-21 school year.
▪ Require the state Department of Public Instruction to review the third-grade reading EOG to determine whether it should be modified to better meet the needs of the Read To Achieve program. The state has spent more than $150 million since 2012 under Read To Achieve, but third-grade reading scores have worsened over time.
There is more to the bill and the hint that the ACT will be used as an overall test to grade student achievement will be explored later. This post is to comment on how the state should overhaul its use of the School Performance Grading system.
NC is the only state (out of 16 which use a school grading system) that puts more emphasis on proficiency than growth and counts proficiency for 80% for a school performance grade. That proficiency is calculated by student test scores. Reducing testing but not changing the school performance grading dynamic ultimately leads to a rather negative effect: fewer tests will have much more power over proficiency grades for schools. In other words, fewer tests now have much more effect on schools. That’s increasing pressure on schools and students.
Ironic that a bill meant to reduce stress in students and schools might have a totally different outcome if something is not done about how those school performance grades are calculated. It begs for more serious consideration to at least alter the ratio of achievement and growth or just doing what really needs to be done – abolishing the school performance grading system.