Here's some good news toward the end of the school year for Hillsborough County students. District administrators have heard the complaints from parents and students about too many tests, and they are moving to reduce them. A new plan to eliminate some tests and provide teachers and principals more flexibility over when and how to test are steps in the right direction.
District administrators handed out lists of tests this week that indicated which ones no longer will be required and explained the new emphasis on flexibility in the classroom — which is exactly where the real decision-making should have been all along. Teachers and parents have complained for several years about the overall impact of the district's "formative tests,'' which take up so much time early in the year and then again at the end of the year. Teachers also have been required to give those tests on specific dates, regardless of whether they felt their students were prepared.
Of course, testing and measuring student performance over the school year has its place. But valuable teaching time has been sacrificed for test preparation and testing, and the testing periods have tied up media labs and disrupted schedules for weeks at a time in Hillsborough and elsewhere in Florida. The test reductions in Hillsborough will begin with elementary students as the district looks to do the same for middle and high school students.
Credit superintendent Jeff Eakins for listening to the concerns and taking action as part of his efforts to return more control to teachers, principals and area superintendents. The changes will not affect the state-required tests such as the Florida Standards Assessment — but state legislators should follow the examples in Hillsborough and other districts to reduce high-stakes testing.