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State Superintendent Wants Less Testing For NC's Youngest Students

Mark Johnson says he wants the State Board of Education to eliminate certain high-stakes tests for K-5 students that are implemented by board policies rather than state or federal law.

RALEIGH, N.C. -- State Superintendent Mark Johnson says he wants to test North Carolina's youngest students less.

The move follows a survey Johnson sent to teachers last school year that showed 76 percent of NC teachers think their students are tested too much.

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Most K-3 students are assessed through the mCLASS reading diagnostic tool. mCLASS is required except for charter schools, where it's optional. (Editor's note: A previous version of this story said mCLASS was only a recommendation, not a requirement for this school year. This has been changed for accuracy.)

Drew Elliot with N.C. Department of Public Instruction said what Superintendent Johnson has changed is making the previously required written component optional, as well as moving the requirements for monitoring student progress to recommendations

The state says this change allows for more teacher discretion in the state's Read to Achieve program, which focuses more on personalized learning.

Johnson says he's also urging the State Board of Education to eliminate certain high-stakes tests in grades K-5 that are implemented by board policies rather than state or federal law.

“I can’t change Federal law about standardized testing. But where we can, we will be revising the testing protocols to remove unnecessarily strict guidelines to alleviate at least some of the stress and disruption that testing causes in the early grades," said Johnson.

The State Board of Education says many of the changes in testing protocols will be in effect before students take end-of-course and end-of-grade exams for this school year.

Some educators are giving the idea a thumbs-up and said they anticipate the outlook of the plan is implemented.

"The frequency of the tests and the amount of testing as well as the duration of testing has been a concern among educations for many years," said Dr. Nichole Smith of North Carolina A & T University.

They are also calling for more help for teachers and students in the classroom.

"Not too long ago we had full-time teacher-assistants in kindergarten through 3rd grade and I think adding that personnel back to classrooms in NC will make the biggest impact in helping young children learn," said Natalie Beyer of Public Schools First NC.

With fewer tests, the educators say time and resources would go towards teaching students at their individual pace of learning and allow teachers more control in student assessment.

"There are still opportunities for teachers to formatively assess their students through daily instructions, through daily questions and the home assignments they require their student to do in their classroom," said Dr. Smith.

"It's important for him to work with the state board of education to identify what assessments are giving teachers good information and what is not providing teachers with additional information," added Beyer.

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