Too much testing is harmful to students

Students should spend no more that 2 percent of their time at school being tested.

Regarding your editorial "Putting testing to the test" (March 25), I share The Sun's belief that "students should spend as much time on tests as necessary for them to learn and mark progress in schools — no more, no less."

That is precisely why, as a vocal music teacher and Carroll County's Teacher of the Year, I fully support legislation before the Maryland General Assembly to limit all local, state and federally mandated assessments to 2 percent of annual instructional time.

Two percent of annual instructional time equals a little more than 20 hours a year, which is more than enough time for gathering the kind of data you can get from standardized tests. A school district could administer multiple countywide tests, in addition to the state PARCC, MSA, and HSA assessments and still be under that cap.

But once you get over the 20-hour level, the cost associated with the test in terms of lost instructional time, test prep time and the drain on school resources starts to heavily outweigh any additional benefit of data one might get.

Right now, certain grades in many districts have more than 50 hours of standardized testing per year.

That means students lose opportunities for field trips, lab experiments and other hands-on learning activities that simply do not fit into the school year but that often are the types of instructional activities that teach 21st-century skills and keep students energized about learning.

In many cases art, music, physical education and other non-tested curricula are put on the back burner to make time for tests.

Teachers understand that assessing students is inherent to quality education. We conduct those assessments every day in our classrooms, with homework, quizzes and teacher-designed tests specifically tailored to the pace of instruction that is appropriate for our students.

But when it comes to top-down, mandated standardized tests, there's a point at which they negatively interfere with what they are supposed to measure. A 2 percent limit is a reasonable, initial safeguard to ensure students have enough time to learn. I urge the Senate to join the House of Delegates in passing this legislation unanimously.

Rachel McCusker, Eldersburg

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