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Op-ed: Test less, teach more

BY U.S. REP. STEVE ISRAEL

The other week I announced a way to reduce excessive standardized tests as part of Common Core while preserving the quality of learning and teaching in our classrooms. My proposal was developed over the course of several months by school superintendents and educators throughout our communities.

I believe we are testing our kids to extremes and robbing them of their creativity and curiosity. Classrooms are meant to be challenging incubators for learning and expression, not test-taking factories. Unfortunately, many classrooms today are void of teaching innovation and critical thinking because teachers and students are burdened by preparing for excessive standardized tests that promote learning through retention rather than learning by experience.

A common-sense pace of testing is essential to ensure that our students are learning what is being taught and that schools are effectively educating. But we cannot designate standardized test scores as the one predictor of future success for our students, teachers and school districts. Learning is a deeply personal experience, and we should be giving our teachers and students the classroom time they need in order to facilitate experiential learning.

That is why, with the help of Long Island superintendents, I am introducing the Tackling Excessive Standardized Testing (TEST) Act that allows states to choose an alternative testing schedule for students in grades 3 through 8. The TEST Act reduces the number of tests students must take each year and ultimately gives time back to educators to teach science, social studies, art, music and other subjects whose lessons are being cut short in order to prepare for testing.

Allotting the necessary time to foster a classroom atmosphere more conducive to creativity and collaboration will help relieve some of the stress that testing places on students and teachers. It is simply common sense to allow states to be able to choose an alternative testing schedule for students that curbs the amount of tests they have to take while still reflecting their abilities and the effectiveness of school districts.

I have two adult daughters. One is involved in marketing for the pharmaceutical industry. The other is pursuing a career in sustainable agriculture. In other words, one is in pharma and the other a farmer. Excessive standardized tests could not possibly measure the potential and the needs that each had in pursuing their dreams.

We should test less and enrich more.

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