School administrators concerned about standard test methods

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Several school superintendents in Missouri are organizing a push to change standardized testing amid concerns that the current model fails to provide useful feedback on how much students are learning.

St. Louis Public Radio reports more than 40 superintendents have joined a group called the Missouri Assessment Partnership to work on developing a new way of handling performance exams.

Critics say standardized testing that escalated in the early 2000s under federal laws has forced districts to "teach to the test" in an effort to boost scores.

Rockwood School District Superintendent Eric Knost said the standardized testing "really squelches the very creativity that we need in our classrooms" but offers nothing in return.

Missouri's roughly 900,000 public school students take exams in the springs and districts see results the following autumn. Those results play a large role in a district's annual performance report, which factors heavily into accreditation from the Missouri State Board of Education.

But Pattonville School District Superintendent Michael Fulton said the lag time from testing to results doesn't help teachers work with a struggling student, and doesn't tell a district what it needs to improve until it's too late.

"It's simply used for accreditation purposes. That's not what leads to school improvement," said Fulton, who is on the partnership's executive committee.

The Missouri Assessment Partnership instead wants shorter tests two or three times staggered over the school year.

State education officials say the year-end tests aren't meant to measure incremental growth, and individual student progress is best tracked by schools, not the state.

"The state needs to be able to report out annually on a more global sense of achievement in terms of districts and schools," said Stacey Preis, a deputy commissioner in the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Adding to the discontent among school leaders: Missouri's exam has changed multiple times. Students will sit for a different test for the fourth time in five years this spring.

The state rolled out a new test in 2015 after Missouri joined a majority of states in adopting Common Core standards. But after concerns were expressed over Common Core, the state legislature dropped the standards. State education officials were left scrambling to implement new metrics and tests.

"It's kind of like hitting a moving target," said Jim Wipke, Fox School District superintendent. "It can be difficult."

Preis is hopeful the new version of the test will be the start of "a very stable system in the years to come."

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Information from: KWMU-FM, http://www.kwmu.org


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