[G]iven the prevailing testing-as-torture narrative in these parts, I needed to do the math. I have a fourth-grader, the worst for testing time. He will take all four state tests: PARCC for math and reading, CMAS [Colorado state tests] for social studies and science. Those tests are spread out over the next three months — and they add up to a grand total of 16.5 hours of testing for the entire school year.
In Douglas County, our school year is 172 days long. If you figure kids spend about six hours of day in class, that's 1,032 total annual hours of instructional time. So 16.5 hours is 1.6 percent of their time in class taking a state standardized test — or less than two days out of every 100. Again, that's the worst case. Grades three and six only take reading and math (a total of about 12 hours).
That's not the impression you get about how much time kids spend on these tests. People talk about PARCC/CMAS like they are ceaseless ordeals that add to an already heavy burden.
I see it differently. The math shows that the tests take up a moderate amount of time, spread out over a number of days and weeks. And PARCC isn't an added test. It's a replacement test.
It's a much better replacement, at that...The lousy, low-bar bubble sheets are gone. Now, standardized-test time is time much better spent: analytical thinking and problem-solving over regurgitating and bubble-coloring/guessing.
So "teaching to the test" no longer means wasted classroom time on bubble strategy instead of actual learning. Now, "teaching to the test" means teaching kids how to reason, problem- solve, analyze, build an argument, apply learning. I can't think of a much better use of classroom time.