Task force formed to determine whether students are over-testing - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

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Task force formed to determine whether students are over-testing

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Many students are taking their state tests this week. Meanwhile, there's the ongoing debate about how much they're being tested.

And a new report by non-profit Mississippi First is sparking even more questions. Now, the Department of Education is announcing a new task force to study the issue.

"Our students are more than just answers to an A, B, C question," said Madison County Superintendent Dr. Ronnie McGehee.

McGehee said there is room to look at spacing out some of the required state testing.

"We need more time in instruction, more time to develop our young people's thought processes about solving problems, teaching soft skills and preparing them for their future, not our past," noted McGehee.

There's a domino effect at play in Mississippi when it comes to testing. If students don't perform well on the tests, it impacts the district's accountability rating.

"The punitive actions towards teachers, students, and districts is pretty heavy if you don't achieve on these assessments," added McGehee.

It's another reason that superintendents like Clinton's Dr. Tim Martin say they are adding tests at the district level.

"We do some benchmark testing because we can't wait till the real thing till the end of the year to know how well we're going to do," said Martin. "So we do some benchmark testing. We do want it Christmas. We do one right after spring break."

Still, he says they're using that data in a positive way.

"If you use the results to help drive the instruction, the testing can be a good thing," added Martin.

And that's part of what the Mississippi First report noted.

"You can't really say in a hard and fast way that a certain number of tests is too many," said Mississippi First Executive Director Rachel Canter. "It really depends on how you're using them in the context of your curriculum in your school district."

The report examined only four districts of varying size and performance level. Their hope is that the newly formed task force will expand those questions and see if it's an across the board issue of excessive testing.

Both of the superintendents say they'd like to see the task force consider reducing the 3rd-8th grade testing down to every other year.

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