What standardized testing limitations means for our students

Published 9:38 am Thursday, December 3, 2015

Several weeks ago, the Obama administration released new guidelines recommending that students spend no more than 2 percent of classroom time taking standardized tests. These new guidelines align with what we at Niles Community Schools already have implemented as we continually seek to improve student performance.

When we look at actual standardized testing time for each individual student at NCS, the number of hours per year is currently under the limit suggested by President Obama. We firmly believe that testing should not interfere with or crowd-out teaching and learning. Instead, testing should be seen as an additional tool to measure student and school performance, so that we can address deficiencies by making necessary modifications immediately to support academic growth.

While standardized testing is important for a variety of reasons, the disruption of these tests to a teacher’s instructional schedule extends well beyond the set testing period and can cause students to fall behind. Those students who happen to miss test days for extenuating circumstances require additional time to be pulled from the classroom to make up tests or materials. Our teachers do their very best to make accommodations for students missing class time, but it is exceedingly difficult to plan ahead efficiently due to the uncertainty — as curriculum is rigorous and every minute in the classroom matters.

To effectively educate our students and ensure current and future success, NCS has cut back on standardized testing to make time for more authentic and formative assessments to better inform instruction and improve learning for students. Oftentimes, standardized test results are compiled and analyzed weeks or months after the students are tested. So, while the results can often be used to inform curriculum alignment, they’re ineffective in informing teachers of the current needs of students.

In limiting standardized testing, teachers are given the freedom to teach and explore what is best for their individual students. Though NCS realizes that standardized testing can be an important tool, we believe reducing class time spent teaching the test increases time for students and teachers to thrive in an educational environment that promotes creative and critical thinking.

As we seek to maximize the intellectual, personal and social development of the students we are privileged to serve, NCS is committed to ensuring our students’ classroom time is used to prepare them for success within and beyond our walls.


Dr. Dan Applegate is Superintendent at Niles Community Schools.