Survey: Colorado teachers say there’s too much testing

Colorado teachers claim they’re spending too much of their time prepping and administering state mandated tests, a survey conducted by the state’s largest union found. Those same teachers believe their time with students could be better used on instruction.

The results, released this morning, add another voice to the growing statewide cacophony on standardized tests.

Debates about how many state mandated assessments are required, whether those tests are valid and whether those tests should be play a role in a teachers evaluation and district’s performance have been growing in number and volume since the fall.

So far, the Democratically controlled Colorado General Assembly has been hesitant to act on those concerns. Last week, the Senate Education Committee killed a bill that would have postponed the implementation of state assessments aligned to the standards. On Monday, the House Education Committee postponed action on a bill that would allow districts to opt out of those tests. That committee is expected to pick up the bill Wednesday morning.

“It’s important to note that teachers are not ‘anti-testing’ — but testing is only one piece of a balanced approach to improve student outcomes,” Colorado Education Association President Kerrie Dallman said in a statement accompanying the union’s survey results. “We need classroom time to teach critical skills, meaningful tests aligned to the curriculum we’re teaching, and fair, valid evaluations on how we’re performing so we have quality teachers in the classroom.”

Dallman’s statement maybe considered an opening act to a rally CEA is hosting Tuesday evening. The union is billing that event as the kick-off of a new campaign called “Free Our Teachers, Value Our Students.” The aim of the campaign is to garner support to reduce “educational mandates, testing time and bureaucratic red tape in Colorado’s public schools.”

CEA officials have publicly stressed their support for standardized tests and teacher accountability. But the most adamant supporters of Colorado’s education reform policies believe the union is attempting to undermine those systems of accountability.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • Ninety percent of elementary and middle school teachers said mandated assessments get in the way of more interesting units of study which benefit students long-term.  
  • Teachers said they spend at least 50 of 180 days during the academic year administering state and district tests, with language arts specialists spending the most time on mandated assessments.
  • Sixty percent of teachers reported standardized tests and state and district assessments cannot effectively hold students accountable for learning; 80 percent of teachers doubt that tests can effectively assess teaching quality.

The online survey was conducted last week, and polled roughly 1,200 elementary, middle and high school teachers.