Hearing today on bill that would limit standardized tests

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Teacher Matthew Yarberry stands next to a display of his students’ projects Wednesday in his classroom at Hilo High School.

State lawmakers will hear a bill today that would cap the number of standardized tests students take at four per school year.

House Bill 2117 says limiting the assessments would help “promote real-world learning experiences for Hawaii’s children.”

ADVERTISING


Students statewide took an average of 10 standardized tests during the 2016-17 school year, according to a survey of 1,764 teachers conducted by the teachers’ union, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which supports the bill.

HSTA also said 64 percent of teachers used instructional time to prepare students for tests, and 56 percent used time they’d otherwise spend teaching art, music and other subjects.

Students with disabilities and English language learners would be excluded in the testing limit.

The bill also would require a one-year, statewide survey of school administrators and teachers to assess the amount of time they spend on test preparation and its effect on the quality of instruction.

The measure was lauded by East Hawaii educators, including Hilo High School teacher Matthew Yarberry, who said “there needs to be standardized tests, but they need to have consequences” and “we can’t just collect data for data’s sake.”

“Before high school, a lot of standardized testing is basically nonconsequential,” said Yarberry, also the lead HSTA faculty representative at Hilo High. “It’s all done for data collection by administration. So the kids kind of blow through the tests to get through it because there are no consequences, and yet the school gets punished or judged by the results.”

“Testing has sort of taken over what we are supposed to be focused on in the classrooms,” added Waiakea High School teacher Mireille Ellsworth. “We’re really being pressured to teach test-taking skills rather than higher-level thinking. … They trust us with their kids every day, and yet they think they need test scores to indicate whether we are doing our job.”

The bill comes on the heels of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind. Under ESSA, states are now permitted to institute a cap on the amount of time students spend taking tests.

Not everyone supports the idea. State Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto testified against the measure, calling it in written testimony last month “not necessary at this time.”

Kishimoto said testing “provides information on academic progress” and “aggregated results inform educators and policymakers by providing a measure of accountability of the public education system.”

The DOE already reduced the number of state-mandated tests to the federal minimum during the 2015-16 school year, Kishimoto said, and it no longer ranks schools under its Strive HI school accountability system.

She said in later testimony that the DOE has since met with HSTA and also has “begun the process to ensure that the appropriate number and types of tests are administered to students.”

The bill will be heard at 10:50 a.m. today by the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee.

Several other education bills also are still alive, including:

• HB 2025, which would establish a composting grant pilot project in public schools.

• HB 1489, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression and sexual orientation in any state educational program or activity that receives state funding.

• SB 2380, which would add a nonvoting, public school teacher representative to the state Board of Education.

• SB 2507, which would develop a statewide, public computer science curricula.

• SB 2576, which would add interior locks to all classroom doors and mandate all schools have emergency management plans that are updated yearly.

• HB 1938, which would increase the fine to $1,000 for overtaking a school bus on a state highway, if the bus is stopped and its signals are turned on.

• SB 2381, which would allow school principals to close their school due to natural disaster without needing to consult the complex area superintendent first.

• SB 318, which would allow home-schooled students to participate in extracurricular activities offered at the public school that they would otherwise be required to attend.

ADVERTISING


A bill that would have established a pilot program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo to allow kupuna to take classes for free or at a reduced price died. It missed a deadline last week to be heard by its first Senate committee.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.