Politics & Government

NC lawmakers say they want to reduce student testing. Can they agree on a plan?

What if teachers had to take EOG tests instead students?

VIDEO: The teachers at Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh have produced a parody video offering strategies for students taking the upcoming state end-of-grade exams.
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VIDEO: The teachers at Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh have produced a parody video offering strategies for students taking the upcoming state end-of-grade exams.

State lawmakers are weighing different options for how to reduce the amount of standardized testing given to North Carolina public school students.

The state House voted 110 to 2 on Wednesday for a bill that overhauls the school testing program and reduces the number of exams given. But in the Senate, lawmakers introduced their own bill Wednesday that would reduce testing in a different way.

“It is your opportunity to truly reduce testing in the state of North Carolina,” Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Wilkes County Republican and public school teacher, said before Wednesday’s vote.

From elementary through high school, North Carolina students go through a battery of state and local tests. Those influence many things, including whether students are promoted to the next grade level, principal pay, teacher bonuses and letter grades that label each public school as high- or low-performing.

The complaints about overtesting led to State Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson announcing some testing changes, including reducing the length of some state exams. The State Board of Education will vote Thursday on eliminating the N.C. Final Exams for science in fourth grade and for social studies in fourth and fifth grades.

House Bill 377 that was passed Wednesday makes several testing changes:

Replace the state EOG exams given in grades 3-8 in reading and math with the NC Check-Ins, which are shorter exams given to students three times a year in each subject. The Check-Ins are currently voluntary.

Eliminate the remaining state end-of-course (EOC) exams for biology, English and math typically taken by high school students. They’d be replaced by the ACT now taken by all of the state’s high school juniors or by a “nationally recognized assessment of high school achievement and college readiness.”

Eliminate the ACT WorkKeys test in high school.

Eliminate the N.C. Final exams. These state tests are given to students of teachers who don’t have results from an EOG or EOC that can be used to evaluate their performance.

Prohibit school districts from giving standardized tests not required by the State Board of Education.

Prohibit school districts from requiring students to do a high school graduation project. The project involves students researching and writing a paper on a topic that they’ve chosen and presenting the project to a panel.

It’s unclear if the bill will be considered by the Senate.

Senate Bill 621 filed on Wednesday also eliminates the N.C. Final Exams.

But the Senate’s “Testing Reduction Act of 2019” also includes a provision requiring local school districts to determine how many hours their students spend on local standardized tests. If it’s more than the time spent on state exams, they’re to come up with a plan to reduce the amount of local testing.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.
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