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How to Reduce Testing? Some Schools Dump Midterms, Final Exams

We knew that the pressure to reduce the burden of testing on students has been building. But this is one solution we hadn't heard of yet: dumping high school midterms and final exams.

That's what some schools in northern New Jersey are doing. The Herald News tells us that at Wayne High School, administrators realized that students would be missing 30 days of instruction this school year because of tests, field trips, assemblies and snow days. So they dropped midterms and finals.

"Kids go to school because they enjoy learning; they want to explore and they want to learn about themselves," Michael Ben-David, assistant superintendent of Wayne schools, about a half-hour's drive north of Newark, told the newspaper. "That doesn't come from taking [tests] that take up large chunks of the school year."

Schools in Pompton Lakes, Verona, and Glen Ridge are also dropping the tests, and the Pascack Valley Regional High School District is considering it, according to the Herald News. They're doing it largely because they view the state's new standardized tests—the PARCC exams—as more time-consuming, and they want to cut back before those are given, the Herald News reported.

The tests that some north New Jersey schools are dropping are designed by local teachers. Districts that use such tests are layering them on top of New Jersey's own end-of-course exams that are required of all high schools in the state.

Dropping the local midterms and finals has gotten the blessing of state education higher-ups. The Herald News reports that acting state Commissioner of Education David Hespe praised the decision as innovative, and said it "makes perfect sense for districts."

As we reported to you a couple months back, states and districts are doing a major reexamination of their testing regimens in the face of rising opposition to standardized testing. Pressure to ease the testing burden has been flowing from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's office, and has its roots in the White House, as my colleague Alyson Klein reported.

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