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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"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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