Testing Overload: What’s Happening to America’s Public Schools?

You remember the stress all too well.  You can almost recreate the sense of dread you felt as you studied well into the night, and still feel the jitters of sitting in that hard wooden desk waiting for your teacher to hand you several sheets of paper filled with question after question. And now your child has to suffer through the same experience.

Although tests are a normal part of education in America, you can’t help but wonder if your child is overloaded with the amount of work they have to do. It seems that nearly every week, your child comes home feeling frustrated because their scores don’t compare to the other classmates.

Testing Overload What's Happening to America's Public Schools

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Just How Many Tests Is Your Child Taking?

According to a recent study, students in grades 3 through 8 take as many as 20 standardized assessments on top of at least 10 tests per school year. And in some districts and states, students also undergo duplicative or unnecessary tests (such as practice tests) that contribute to that burden. Furthermore, these statistics don’t include additional unit tests the teacher assigns to monitor the students’ progress. The authors of the study conclude that in many areas, public schools create a culture that emphasizes test preparation and testing over student learning.


Are Public Schools Making a Change?

The data created an eye opener for many teachers, school administrators, and parents. And together, they formed the “Opt-Out” movement, which would allow parents to pull their children out of mandated standardized testing. But not everyone supports the movement.

According to Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President, allowing parents to opt out should not be the ultimate goal. Rather, the end game should be that “[parents and educators] trust that assessments make sense, guide instruction, and help children advance in learning.” And unfortunately, the lack of financial support as well as overcrowding in public schools interferes with teachers’ abilities to focus on individual students. In turn, this environment leads to over testing and frequent assessments.

Should You Consider a Charter School Instead?

Although many parents feel satisfied with their local schools’ approach to testing, more and more adults opt to enlist their children in charter schools. The smaller class sizes and innovative teaching methods allow for teachers to focus on individual learning rather than overarching test results. Additional data suggests that charter schools boost student probably of graduating by 7 to 15%, as well as increase the likelihood of enrolling in college by 8 to 10%.

But regardless of their benefits, charter schools have to adhere to state standards to receive funding, which means your child will still have to face state-level achievement tests. And in some charter schools, placement tests could determine whether your child skips ahead or remains behind several grade levels.

If you worry about your child’s ability to cope with tests at either public schools or charter schools, talk to a guidance counselor about which option would be best for you and your child. An alternative online option like a PA cyber charter school could be something that gives you both more freedom in your schedule and curriculum. Do your research and see what other ideas are out there!