It’s Happening: States and Districts Are Starting to #TestBetter

May 19, 2016 12:00:00 AM

by Will Ragland

With state testing winding down and the school year coming to a close, now is the perfect time to re-examine the purpose and usefulness of tests in our schools. Every year, states measure student learning in key academic subjects. The results show how well students have mastered the content in these subjects. While the information is useful, much needs to be done to alleviate the unnecessary burden and stress these tests can sometimes cause. Over the past year, with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and President Barack Obama's Testing Action Plan, Congress and the administration made big strides to support states and school districts in streamlining and improving their assessments, calendars and procedures. The goal? Better, fairer and fewer tests for all kids.

Making progress

At the state and local level we are starting to see real improvements and changes that are reducing the amount of time students are spending on tests and test preparation:
  • Louisiana found that on average, third-grade students spent 25 to 34 school days a year taking local tests. To cut down on unnecessary testing, the Louisiana Department of Education is working with pilot districts to create model assessment systems. It is also providing all districts with guidance on reducing unnecessary tests, along with direct and individualized coaching.
  • New York had 20 percent of parents opt their students out of state tests last year. After listening to parents' concerns, New York shortened state tests by 10 percent and limited test prep. Students will now spend less than two-thirds of 1 percent of total school time on state tests.
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma, cut the time spent on district-mandated testing in half by reducing the frequency of some tests, eliminating one test entirely, and removing district requirements to implement others.
  • Delaware school districts are working together to reduce the testing burden and improve the quality of necessary tests. School districts and charter schools completed an inventory of their tests in order to find the right balance for students, parents and teachers.
These actions show real progress towards better, fairer and fewer tests.
Help us keep the momentum going by telling your state and district officials that it is time to #TestBetter. Visit for additional resources, tools and information.

Will Ragland

Will Ragland is the campaign director of education policy at American Progress. He comes from the U.S. Department of Education where he was the director of strategic outreach in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs. Will spent five years at the department leading efforts to build congressional coalitions behind the Obama administration’s education priorities, handling the office’s appropriations and budget portfolio, and managing relationships between members of Congress and senior leadership, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Before joining the department, he worked on the president’s first election bid in 2008, where he led regional research efforts in southern and northeastern battleground states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire. Previously, Will worked for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives under then-chair, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica, and taught high school English. Born and raised in Kilmarnock, Virginia, Will graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a bachelor’s degree in English and writing.

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