We've been reporting on education this week for our series Carolina Curious. Our question from listener Madelyn Rindal:

“How has the North Carolina Public School System changed in the last decade and how does it compared to our neighboring states?”

The answer: a lot. On Monday, we talked about how funding has shaped North Carolina's schools. Today, we talk about standardized testing.  WFDD's Keri Brown spoke with an education policy expert from UNC Chapel Hill. Professor Eric Houck says these tests have been around for years, but when it comes to the results, there's much more at stake today.  

On changes to the testing process:

“What we've seen different over the past ten years is how the results of those tests have been used. One of the things that No Child Left Behind required is that states report out how different sub groups of students were performing, so schools could no longer hide behind a school-based average. If economically disadvantaged kids were performing worse than non-economically disadvantaged kids, No Child Left Behind brought that to the surface. One of the problems of course, is that then it tied a whole raft of sanctions to it, so schools were being punished for not performing and there's also a question as to whether these tests are measuring what students are learning or measuring the ability of what students are bringing into the classroom.”

On more testing today:

“Yes, there's more testing today. More of that testing however is standardized tests administered by the school district itself, in order to assess a student's readiness to perform on the state mandated test.”

On impacts of extra testing:

“Before we had wide standardized testing measurement, schools that taught lots of poor kids...the school performance was really ignored by a lot of administrators. The kids who needed a great education weren't necessarily getting it and the performance of those schools wasn't taken into account. The standardized testing allows us to see where those issues are and address them. At the same time, it's lead to a culture of over testing and a culture of negative accountability that's having some negative impacts in classrooms across the state.”

On curriculum concerns:

“There's a lot of evidence that the standardized testing regimine has resulted in what we call a narrowing of the curriculum, which is that courses that are not tested receive less attention from school districts and school administrators, so students who are moving through schools currently would see a narrower curriculum than their predecessor might have ten or 15 years ago.”

On the future of standardized testing in North Carolina:

“I don't think it's going away anytime soon. I think we do see some changes to North Carolina's tests themselves as a result of the state being involved in the Common Core, and I think that is some positive moves into the creation of better tests, but I think the standardized assessment and accountability movement is going to be with us for a while still.”  

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news


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