Parents support testing, but think there's too much

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​Parents of public school students support the use of standardized tests, but think they're overused and not necessarily helping their children improve.

That finding – one of many from a new survey of parent attitudes released Monday by the nonprofit communications organization Education Post – lies at the heart of the nation's ongoing testing saga, which has been marked by thousands of students opting out of state assessments and a growing number of states struggling with how to administer and use new tests designed to align with more rigorous standards.

The poll figures, which were culled from a 20-minute online survey of more than 1,000 parents, show that 44 percent of parents believe standardized tests are fair, compared with 38 percent who said they are not and 18 percent who are unsure. In addition, 44 percent of parents said standardized tests have a positive impact on schools overall, while 30 percent of parents said they feel the impact is negative, and 25 percent are not sure.

Overall, however, 49 percent of parents think their children take too many tests, compared with 40 percent who think they take the right amount.

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Parents support testing, but think there's too much
In this photo taken Feb. 12, 2015, sixth grade teacher Carrie Young, back center, answers questions from her students about an exercise on their laptops as they practice for the the Common Core State Standards Test in her classroom at Morgan Elementary School South in Stockport, Ohio. On Tuesday, Ohio becomes the first state to administer one of two tests in English language arts and math based on the Common Core standards developed by two separate groups of states. By the end of the year, about 12 million children in 28 states and the District of Columbia will take exams that are expected to be harder than traditional spring standardized state tests they replace. In some states, they'll require hours of additional testing time students will have to do more than just fill in the bubble. The goal is to test students on critical thinking skills, requiring them to describe their reasoning and solve problems. (AP Photo/Ty Wright)
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, left, joins with Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, center, and Speaker Robin Vos Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Madison, Wis., in promising that a bill will pass next month ensuring the results of standardized test scores aren't used to measure performance. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)
FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2015 file photo, practice test books sit on a table in the sixth grade English Language Arts and Social Studies classroom at Morgan Elementary School South in Stockport, Ohio. Call this the year of the test. Or, at least the year of standardized test mania. For all the headlines of technical test problems in some states and parents opting their children out of test taking, testing proponents say the roll out in much of the country this spring of new standardized tests taken on a computer has had relatively few major hitches. (AP Photo/Ty Wright, File)
Waving their placards, students and teachers huddle together in freezing temperatures during a rally against what protesters called "excessive" standardized testing in Colorado schools Wednesday, March 25, 2015, on the west steps of the State Capitol in Denver. More than 100 protesters were on hand for the rally, which was organized by the Colorado Education Association. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Dolores Ramos, 16, right, joins dozens of Highland High School students in Albuquerque, N.M., as students staged a walkout Monday March 2, 2015, to protest a new standardized test they say isn't an accurate measurement of their education. Students frustrated over the new exam walked out of schools across the state Monday in protest as the new exam was being given. The backlash came as millions of U.S. students start taking more rigorous exams aligned with Common Core standards. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)
Hundreds of Albuquerque High School students stage a walkout in Albuquerque, N.M. on Monday, March 2, 2015, to protest a new standardized test they say isn't an accurate measurement of their education. Students frustrated over the new exam walked out of schools across the state Monday in protest as the new exam was being given. The backlash came as millions of U.S. students start taking more rigorous exams aligned with Common Core standards. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)
FILE - This April 1, 2014 file photo shows an ACT Assessment test in Springfield, Ill. The popular ACT college admissions exam is broadening how it reports student's scores. The exam's traditional 36-point scale remains unchanged, but starting next year students will receive an ACT score on two new "readiness indicators" reflecting how they did in terms of career readiness and understanding a complex text. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences teachers Kelley Collings, left, and Amy Roat pose for a portrait Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, in Philadelphia. Nearly 20 percent of students at a Philadelphia middle school won’t be taking the state’s annual standardized tests after teachers informed parents of the right to opt out of the assessments. Having children sit out the high-stakes exams has become a form of civil disobedience nationwide for those who say education officials aren’t listening to complaints about the volume of such assessments. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Republican Reps. John Lamar III, of Senatobia, left , and Ken Morgan of Morgantown, listen as House Education Committee Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, presents House Bill 385, banning use of a Common Core-related test, wiping out high school exit exams in biology and U.S. history, and pushing the state Board of Education to adopt standardized tests published by the ACT organization in House Chambers, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015 at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. The House bill passed 116-3 and moves to the Senate for more debate. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
A computer-based practice ACT English test is displayed on a computer monitor Wednesday, May 6, 2015, in Washington. The ACT is announcing May 8, 2015, that computer-based testing of the ACT would be available next year in the states and districts that require students to take the ACT during the school day. About 1 million students could be affected. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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"We're hearing from parents that they generally see value and promise in testing, but their experiences with testing do not come close to matching what they want for their kids," Education Post Executive Director Peter Cunningham said in a statement. "Parents told us that they see standardized tests as a tool for the system. They want them to be used more as a tool to help their kids learn."

The role of testing is a major debate in the ongoing congressional efforts to rewrite No Child Left Behind, the federal K-12 law that is widely thought to have ushered in an era of high-stakes testing by requiring states to increase the number of students deemed proficient in reading in math each year.

The federal government requires states to test students 17 times before graduation: Annually in math and reading in grades 3 through 8, once in those subjects during high school, and then once in science during elementary, middle and high school.

But states and districts require additional tests, largely put in place to ensure students are keeping pace with federal proficiency requirements, which many say creates a vicious testing cycle. Florida's Broward County became the poster child for the problem this year when it was revealed the county was administering more than 1,300 tests to students, one for each course offered.

The survey also found that 29 percent of parents believe standardized tests "put too much stress on my child," and another 43 percent believe the tests are stressful but that the stress is manageable.

"Testing, accountability, standards – these are all issues that are being hotly debated and that affect parents and students every day," Cunningham said. "[Parents] want fewer tests and want them to be used to empower parents and teachers instead of just measuring results."

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