Proposed Testing-Time Limit Might Not Reduce Testing Time

Feb 11, 2015
Originally published on February 11, 2015 8:18 pm

A proposal to limit students to 45 hours of testing a year is unlikely to reduce the amount of time spent on exams, according to a survey of Florida's largest school districts.

Districts say they don't currently track the time individual students spend on testing.

Calculating the number is complicated. The amount of testing varies by a student's grade, the classes he or she is taking and other factors, such as whether the student is learning English or receives extra time to accommodate a disability.

Orange and Miami-Dade counties' schools provided estimates and say even if a student were to take every test available in a single year, the student still would not exceed 45 hours of testing.

For instance, the district says a Miami-Dade 11th grader has 20.6 hours of required tests. If the student took every 11th grade test possible, that would add 15.2 hours. And two International Baccalaureate courses -- an advanced program for motivated students -- would add eight more hours.

That's a total of 43.8 hours of testing -- and most students don't take that course load.

Miami-Dade says an eighth grader taking high-school level courses might have as much as 42.1 hours of testing.

Orange County schools say 11th graders have to complete the most testing, a total of 28.55 hours. Seventh and eighth graders must complete 22.42 hours of testing and fifth graders have the most testing in elementary school -- 23.42 hours.

School officials in two other large districts, Palm Beach and Hillsborough counties, say they don't keep track of how much time each student spends on testing.

"Right there underlines a significant amount of the problem," said Sen. John Legg, who introduced the bill limiting testing. "If you don't know how much they're being assessed, odds are they're being assessed too much.

Legg said the 45-hour limit is a place to start the debate. The Florida Department of Education is investigating district testing requirements at the request of Gov. Rick Scott. Those finding could also influence lawmakers.

Testing is expected to be one of the biggest education issues during the legislative session, which begins next month. Across the Florida and the country, a growing number of parents, students, teachers and school leaders have said students take too many tests, and too many decisions are based on student test scores.

In Florida, that includes whether students advance from third to fourth grade, graduate high school, and scores also judge public school and teacher performance.

Senate lawmakers say they want "fewer and better" exams, while House lawmakers have yet to introduce a bill proposing changes.

Districts have also taken steps to reduce testing. Miami-Dade eliminated some tests they said were redundant. Other districts have followed suit, or said they are considering eliminating exams.

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