If you listen to parents and teachers, you hear a lot about how much time kids spend taking and preparing to take standardized tests. But how much is it, really? A new reportfrom the American Federation of Teachers shows that time—and money—spent on testing varies widely from district to district. But, at least in some districts, as in one of the two the AFT studied, the stories of endless hours of testing are no exaggeration:
Bar graph showing amount of time spent on standardized testing in on eastern school district, ranging from nearly five hours per student in kindergarten to more than 55 hours per student in 11th grade.
Bar graph showing the amount of time spent on test prep in one eastern school district, ranging from around 10 hours per student per year in kindergarten to around 150 in 11th grade.
The AFT did a grade-by-grade analysis of testing calendars for these two districts, estimating the time and cost involved, and found that, in addition to the more than 50 hours a year some students spend on testing itself, they may spend more than 100 hours preparing for tests. Not preparing in the sense of learning math or reading in general, but in the sense of learning the specific things that will be tested. If you factor in not just the cost of the tests and test prep materials but the lost instructional time, you're talking about as much as $1,000 per student, a good chunk of that from the as much as 40 minutes a day of time spent prepping for or taking standardized tests. It's not just teachers and students whose time is spent on testing, either. Administrative and support staff have to label and distribute tests, keep them secure to prevent cheating, and ship them out for scoring.
All this for tests that are in many cases poorly designed or are being administered to identify which students are in danger of doing badly on other standardized tests. It's not time well spent if what you care about is kids learning to do anything other than take very specific tests.