Federal Law and Regulations

King announces guidance to states to help reduce testing

by Ernie Melcher

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. recently announced new guidance to help states identify and eliminate low-quality, redundant or unhelpful testing.

The guidance outlines how federal dollars may be used to help reduce testing in schools, while still ensuring that educators and parents have the information they need on students’ progress to improve learning. The guidance shines a light on innovative work already happening across the country and provides examples of how states and districts can use their federal funding to explore new strategies for ensuring the use of high-quality, useful and well-constructed assessments, and the elimination of redundant and burdensome assessments.

The document builds on an October 2015 announcement by President Obama and a set of principles the Department released, outlining that assessments must be worth taking and of high quality; enhance teaching and learning; and give a well-rounded picture of how students and schools are doing.
Last fall, the Council of the Great City Schools released the results of a comprehensive, two-year study on the scope of testing in schools, a report that has helped deepen the nation’s understanding of assessments. Some states and districts continue to look for creative ways to decrease testing burden on students and teachers while ensuring that new assessments measure vital skills like writing, problem-solving, and critical thinking. The Department is highlighting some of that work on its Progress blog with posts on strategies being used in Tennessee and in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
While this guidance addresses use of federal money under No Child Left Behind during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, the Department will provide further clarification in coming months on how dollars under the newly adopted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) can be used to support the reduction of unnecessary testing. The new law takes additional steps to support smart, effective assessments and to reduce over-testing, including efforts to encourage states to limit classroom time spent on statewide standardized testing and to strive for continued improvement and innovation in assessments. ESSA encourages a smarter approach to testing by allowing the use of multiple measures of student learning and progress, along with other indicators of student success, to make school accountability decisions. It also includes support for state efforts to audit and streamline their current assessment systems.
In addition to this guidance, the Department has also:
• Established “office hours” for any state or district that wishes to consult on how it can best reduce testing while still meeting policy objectives and requirements under the law;
• Highlighted the work of states and districts on the Progress blog;
• Awarded resources through the Enhanced Assessment Grants competition to support the development of better, less burdensome assessments;
• Provided expertise to states directly through proactive outreach to states and other technical assistance.
King talks more about the guidance in a recently released video.
The full press release from the U.S. Department of Education is available at
http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/king-announces-guidance-states-help-reduce-testing

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