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Students will take fewer tests under bill signed into law by Gov. Cooper

Students taking a test.

Hurricane Dorian gave many North Carolina school children a day off from school this week.

But Gov. Roy Cooper gave them something better when he signed  Senate Bill 621, into law. The new law reduces the number of state exams students must take.

“North Carolina needs to be able to assess how our schools are performing and how well students are learning,” Cooper said. “A reasonable assessment system that gives teachers and parents accurate information without sacrificing accountability should help children learn without over testing.”

SB 621, also known as the “Testing Reduction Act of 2019” eliminates more than 20 state exams, including the N.C. Final Exams. Those exams, taken mostly by high school students, were used to evaluate teacher performance.

The passage of SB 621 is a win for North Carolina advocates who have pushed for testing reform, but groups such as N.C. Families for Testing Reform contend it doesn’t go far enough

“This bill begins to reduce the burden on end-of-year testing for older children, but doesn’t do enough to support young children, who are tested more frequently, and are the most vulnerable to the emotional stress of testing,” the testing reform group said in a statement Friday.

Tow major criticism of over-testing is that it interrupts instruction time and that many of the scores are  used to rank schools and to evaluate teachers.

“The fact is that much of the testing that is being done is used for the purpose of grading schools and teachers (like the recent released School Performance letter grades (A-F) for schools) and NOT for giving children the tools they need for learning, which is something we hope will continue to be addressed by the Legislature and DPI.”

The elimination of the N.C. Final Exams raises new questions about how the state will gather data in the future to evaluate its teachers.

SB 621 calls for the State Board of Education (SBE) and the Department of Public Instruction to submit to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee a plan on how the state will collect data to evaluate teacher performance and professional growth moving forward.

SBE members J.B. Buxton told his colleagues at the board’s business meeting Thursday that North Carolina will have to figure out how to get “growth data for teachers without having growth data for students.”


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