By Scott Engelman, a California teacher.
Children in the fourth grade in the Los Angeles Unified School District will be taking more standardized tests (pdf) this year than ever. They are outlined below. Now think about this: you probably don’t want to read all of this because you are a busy person. However these are just the descriptions of the tests. Meanwhile, 10-year-old children have to actually take the tests. And there are a lot of them.
Students begin the year taking DIBELS testing, which measures reading comprehension and reading fluency. This test is administered three times each year, and typically takes about a day or two to complete. Student complete reading passages by filling in blanks left in texts. They also read stories aloud to their teacher, and then are asked to summarize what they read. Finally, they read texts in which three words are periodically placed inside parentheses. Students need to circle the word inside the parentheses that correctly complete the sentences.
Those students who do not speak English as their first language, and are identified as “developing English learners,” will take the California English Language Development Test (CELDT). This is, “An annual test of English Language Proficiency (ELP) for: (1) newly enrolled students whose primary language is not English as an Initial Assessment (IA), and (2) students who are English learners as an Annual Assessment (AA).” Students taking the CELDT will be pulled from their language arts lessons for the administration of these tests. They typically take about three days.
Fourth graders also take Interim CAP Assessments twice a year to monitor their progress. These tests have historically been administered in language arts, math, and science. They are, “Multiple assessment opportunities in the Comprehensive Assessment Program [which] constitute a vital component of an effective, well-balanced instructional program and support teachers’ ability to plan effectively, monitor student progress in standards-based instruction, and determine the efficacy of instruction and intervention matched to student need.” In recent years, the science periodic assessment test has been relegated solely to fifth graders, though it was administered for several years before that to fourth graders as well. Each test takes about two days
Fourth graders are solely responsible for taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) & Progress in International Reading Literacy Student (PIRLS). “NAEP is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education. NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.” It is unknown how many days will be needed to complete these exams. Let’s say just one day.
“The 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). PIRLS is an international comparative study of the reading literacy of young students. The study focuses on the achievement and reading experiences of children in grades equivalent to 4th grade, and includes a written test of reading comprehension and a series of questionnaires focusing on factors associated with the development of reading literacy.” It is also unknown how long these tests take, but since only certain schools will be selected to take these tests, let’s assume your child’s school isn’t selected. However if they are selected, let’s also assume one day for the PIRLS.
The big one is the Smarter Balanced test. These are computer-based assessments for English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics in grades 3-8 and 11. Students are administered a Performance Task (PT) and a non-PT for ELA and a PT and a non-PT for mathematics. Performance tasks are research projects. Students participate in research activities in class and use different strategies to take notes. The task culminates in a writing assignment during which students compose essays in response to a question that correlates with the research activities. Each performance task takes about three days. The “non-PT” tests are typical multiple-choice tests, during which students read passages and answer questions related to those passage. The non-PT tests also include some short-answer questions as well, for which students type their replies. Each of these tests typically takes about two days, though some teachers report taking more than a week.
To summarize, the typical 10-year-old in LAUSD will have about 15 days of high-stakes, standardized testing this year if they are a native English speaker and are not selected to take the NAEP or PIRLS tests. That number could go as high as 20 days, depending on various specific circumstances. That translates to up to 3-4 weeks of standardized testing in the fourth grade.
KNOW THAT YOU CAN OPT OUT OF ANY AND ALL TESTS simply by writing a note to the school administrators citing California Ed Code:
60615. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent's or guardian's written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted.
For more on how to do this, see United Opt Out’s California state guide.