Montana Elementary Students Testify to Senator over Frustrating Standardized Tests

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whichdoyoupreferBillings 4th-graders give Tester, Juneau earful about testing load, glitches

Elementary school students in Billings, Montana testify to U.S. senator Jon Tester and Montana’s top schools official over the standardized tests required of them each year. Taking particular aim at the new Smarter Balanced assessments, these fourth graders explain their anxieties over and frustrations with the length and complexity of their standardized exams.

Poly Drive Elementary students recited their concerns Friday to a U.S. senator and Montana’s top schools official over the onslaught of exams they’re required to take each year, taking particular aim at the new Smarter Balanced assessments whose rollout has been marred by glitches.

The Q&A was held around U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s push to scale back the annual testing required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Tester introduced an amendment last month that would cut the federal assessment regimen in half.

Though Congress is in the midst of what political observers say is the most serious effort yet to overhaul the law, due for reauthorization since 2007, Tester’s amendment may be a long shot. Annual “accountability” testing is one of the law’s hallmarks, with support from the Obama administration and civil rights organizations who say it shines a light on inequities between districts and student groups.

In Montana and nearly 20 other states, Smarter Balanced is the newest version used to fulfill federal requirements.

Students said they liked some aspects of the test (that it’s not timed and questions may be skipped and later returned to) and were split on others (like typing essay responses). But they were largely unforgiving toward the longer, more complex exam.

But Smarter Balanced is the tip of the testing iceberg. Most districts -- including School District 2 in Billings, to which Poly Drive Elementary belongs -- require their own cluster of assessments in reading and math that give real-time results and can be used to place students in appropriate classrooms.

Ever wonder what would happen if a Senator and a State Superintendent would actually take the time to talk to teachers and students? THIS!

Thank you Senator Jon Tester!

Tester: “So how many days do you spent taking — “ Robinson: “I probably designate about half of a quarter, when you figure all of the

instruction and the testing time. Fourth-graders cannot test fast.” Tester: “Forty-five days?” “Yeah. Half of that,” Robinson said. “Half of 45 spent on nothing but testing.” “I need to agree with my teacher that it’s a lot on 10- and nine-year olds, and it’s just

super hard because our teacher can’t just shove all that stuff in our brain all this year,”

one girl said. “So what’s the right amount?” Juneau pressed. “I don’t really know,” the girl answered, “but just not that much.”