Miami-Dade students to get break from some tests

All together, the district says it will administer 24 fewer tests this year.
All together, the district says it will administer 24 fewer tests this year. Miami Herald File

Students in Miami-Dade will take fewer tests this year after the district decided on Wednesday to cancel one set of interim assessments.

Along with other changes to the testing calendar, it means students will now spend up to 260 more minutes learning — rather than taking tests, according to district Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

“It’s a win for teachers and it’s a win for students,” he said.

The move is the latest development in a growing backlash across the country against the frequency and high-stakes attached to testing, as well as the amount of teaching time lost to administering exams.

The change announced Wednesday means students will no longer take two sets of interim exams. The tests were developed to comply with state requirements to track student progress — but only one round of the scores were actually used for the data.

Carvalho recently challenged the state to look at its own schedules to get rid of duplicative tests. Then, he took his own advice.

“We felt that it would be disingenuous for us to request the state to do something without us looking introspectively at the same question in a very serious way,” he said.

Interims were supposed to start next week. Instead, teachers got an email Wednesday with the subject line: “Interim assessments — canceled.”

“Teachers are ecstatic. We walked out of class (after school) in a conga line all the way to administration. This is a huge step in the right direction,” said third-grade Royal Palm Elementary teacher Cary Cabrera.

The district has also done away with baseline assessments that measure a student’s ability at the beginning of the year. And, after the state did away with diagnostic tests for kindergarteners through second graders (amid a kindergarten teacher’s protest), the district also decided not to give the tests to third- through eighth-graders, too.

All together, the district says it will administer 24 fewer tests this year.

Teachers say the move will give them more time to teach, and parents said their kids will be less stressed. Roxana Johnson, 33, has four kids in the public school system.

“Knowing that they’re taking some of those tests out, that’s a big relief on them because they can do really good at regular school, but when testing comes, they close up on themselves,” she said. “They know they can do it, but their minds get blocked off and they want to impress their parents and impress their teachers.’’

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