A continuing concern of classroom educators is too many standardized tests shifting the focus in the classroom away from student learning toward a culture of high-stakes testing. NSEA has been actively working to reduce the burden of standardized testing, helping pass a bill to require reviews of student assessments in 2017 and again in 2021. While small changes have been made over the last several years, Nevada needs a more substantive overhaul of state testing requirements.
With colleges and universities across the country moving away from testing requirements for admissions, it no longer makes sense to require all high school students to take a college assessment like the ACT. However, merely replacing the ACT with the SBAC or similar standardized assessments will do nothing to make the assessment less burdensome or more meaningful. NRS 390.610 requires pupils to take the assessment in order to graduate. Many high school juniors know they only have to take the assessment to graduate and don’t take the test seriously. So even with an effective assessment, there is no utility in identifying academic weaknesses to provide appropriate intervention, so students are college or career ready by graduation. And the sadder truth is that even district test directors haven’t found the ACT or the SBAC very useful in their stated goal.
In a 2016 survey, district test directors found both the ACT and the SBAC came up short in the categories of informing student progress, improving individual schools or school districts, time and cost versus benefit received, setting clear expectations for students, measuring and monitoring student progress toward mastery of content standards, supporting student placement decisions, providing feedback to students and families, providing feedback to educators, and providing feedback to community members.
2016 focus groups including testing staff, principals, teachers, students, union representatives, and community members were even less kind to state-mandated assessments. The most common concern was the loss of instructional time. This included instructional time impacted by accommodations made to school schedules. For example, participants reported that their schools had to alter their spring schedule, that computer labs would not be available for regular use, and that some schools instructed students to stay home on days they were not being tested to accommodate test administration. Participants were also concerned about the effects on students, noting that the frequency and duration of the state assessment system led to adverse behavioral outcomes, including disengagement in the classroom, not trying hard on tests, test fatigue, missing classes, and adverse psychological outcomes like test anxiety, stress, and malaise.
NSEA believes this Board of Education should focus on streamlining the required state assessments and recommend to the legislature an amendment of NRS 390.610. If the Board believes in continuing college and career readiness assessments, NSEA strongly recommends engaging a diverse group of Nevada educators to develop meaningful proficiency exams.