In the last year, 35 institutions of higher education have dropped the requirement for standardized tests. Universities have done this in an attempt to widen the applicant pool and increase campus diversity. Wochit
Lafayette Parish School Board members took a look Wednesday at the standardized tests given in local schools.
According to district data, Lafayette Parish will spend $680,390 this year on various exams. These include GEE exams, placement tests for new students, benchmark assessments, Advanced Placement tests and some ACT exams.
The costs are paid for with district, federal and school funds. In some cases, students may also have to pay a testing fee.
The state covers the cost for other tests, such as spring and fall LEAP tests, a mandated civics test and an elementary reading assessment.
Annette Samec, the district’s chief academic officer, said the price tag may be reduced next year as the parish looks to use other tools and combine some assessments.
But questions lingered about the sheer volume of tests. The district’s data did not include some optional assessment, like STAR tests for reading and vocabulary, or regular chapter and subject tests given by teachers.
NEW TODAY: Could Louisiana teachers go on strike?
“Teachers know where the kids are. It’s ridiculous that we have to have so many tests when we can just ask the teachers,” said Laurie Lightfoot, a local mother, at a Wednesday board committee meeting. “We have unbelievably awesome teachers in this system, and we’re not trusting them. The kids are tested to death.”
Lightfoot said a test only measures a student’s performance on a particular day, without taking into account whether a smart child does not test well, or is ill or distracted on a testing day.
It’s unclear how many hours a student spends taking such tests. Samec and Tom Spencer, the district’s accountability director, said the timeframe can vary. Some tests present harder questions if a student continues to provide right answers, which can lead to a longer testing time. Most tests do have some kind of time limit.
Spencer said Lafayette Parish conducted a survey about testing times last year after the state legislature required it.
“We sat for an hour and a half putting numbers in for the survey and they couldn’t spit the information back out to me to find out our total,” Spencer said.
Lafayette Parish Superintendent Donald Aguillard said he understands the frustration, and that the over-testing sentiment is widespread across the country.
“We’re trying to help these children identify where they are and where the deficiencies are,” he said. “I wish the country would back off of testing and let classroom teachers have the professional capacity to determine what these kids need. I don’t see the tide turning at this point.”
Aguillard added that the state education department has trimmed testing times in recent years. District officials will continue to evaluate the tests, he said.
“When we realize a tool isn’t giving us the information we need, we want to stop that behavior,” he said. “We want to reduce the number of times instruction has to stop so that we have more teaching in the classroom. It’s a fine line. You have schools and they are working to try to close the achievement gap. They need to know where these children are so the interventions can be applied. We will continue to try to minimize the number of minutes, hours, days for testing.”
Board member Justin Centanni said he wants to ensure the tests have value to students.
“I’m not taking the position that all tests have no value,” Centanni said. “You look at AP tests. That’s higher financial aid and money in students’ and parents’ pockets.”
Board member Mary Morrison said that when her children were in school, she appreciated the feedback that test results provided.
“As a parent, we need to know what is going on as well to give them help at home,” Morrison said. “I’m not sure if assessments are a waste of time. I’m not sold on that yet.”
REQUIRED TESTS IN LAFAYETTE PARISH
The following tests are required by the state accountability system:
ACT in the spring. No direct cost to Lafayette Parish.
LEAP 2025 in the spring and fall. No direct cost to Lafayette Parish.
LEAP 2025 retesting in the summer. Lafayette Parish pays $15,000 for a test coordinator and test administrators.
GEE test. Given to non-graduates who continue to take tests for a diploma. Lafayette Parish pays $1,000.
ELPT, an assessment for English as a Second Language students. No direct cost to Lafayette Parish.
The following tests are required by state policy:
Terra Nova. These are placement tests given to students from home schools and unapproved private schools when they enter LPSS. This costs Lafayette Parish $5,000.
Fountas and Pinell. This is the last year LPSS will use these tests for state-required K-3 reading assessments. No direct cost to the parish.
DSC, an assessment for kindergarten and pre-K. Lafayette Parish pays $6,365 for the pre-K tests. This is the last year to use them.
TS Gold, a pre-K assessment. No direct cost to Lafayette Parish.
A universal screener for kindergarten to 9th grade. Lafayette Parish uses NWEA at a current cost of $340,320.
Civics test required for high school students. No direct cost to Lafayette Parish.
The following tests are part of Lafayette Parish initiatives for improved performance scores:
CLEP. This costs Lafayette Parish $55,250. Students may pay some costs.
Advanced Placement. This costs Lafayette Parish $112,800. Students may pay some costs.
ACT Retest. This cost Lafayette Parish $27,750. Students may pay some costs.
WorkKeys. This costs $27,000 and replaces ACT tests for some students.
WorkKeys Retest. This costs $13,500 in Lafayette Parish.
The following tests are chosen by Lafayette Parish for students:
PreACT. The district chose this for improved ACT scores, at a cost of $27,720.
LEAP360. No direct cost to the parish. This was optional this year and is an interim assessment used for student learning targets.
iSTEEP. This is given to about 6,500 students each week to monitor progress. It costs Lafayette Parish $48,685.