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Survey: N.C. Teachers Say High-Stakes Tests Dominate Classes

By guest blogger Andrew Ujifusa

More ammunition for foes of high-stakes testing has come in the form of a survey of North Carolina teachers showing that more than half those polled say they devote over half their classroom time to preparing for high-stakes tests.

The results have been publicized at virtually the same time as the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, which showed this year that teacher job satisfaction is at its lowest in more than two decades, as my colleague Liana Heitin reported yesterday.

The North Carolina survey of more than 600 teachers statewide and an accompanying report from the North Carolina NAACP, Advocates for Children's Services, and the Advancement Project (a civil rights group that tackles community inequities), also showed that nearly 90 percent of teachers thought the state's end-of-grade and end-of-course tests damaged teacher morale.

Those tests fulfill state accountability requirements, and some of them also fulfill the federal No Child Left Behind Act accountability requirements, said Alexi Freeman, a staff attorney with the Advancement Project.

"It can ruin cooperation among teachers, lead to handpicking of students and punishment of teachers who want to work with 'struggling' students, and weaken curriculum by increasing the prevalence of narrowly 'teaching to the test,'" said the report called "Taking Back Our Classrooms!"

The survey's results also revealed more than three-quarters of teachers surveyed think such high-stakes tests are driving "good teachers" out of the profession.

From the 2007-08 to the 2010-11 academic years, the state spent more than $34 million on developing and administering such tests, while the federal expenditures for those tests were about $25 million, the report stated, citing data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

The report did praise an effort from the state education department to review and revise courses of study, assessments, and accountability over five years. But it also said the future of high-stakes tests in the state "appears unclear."

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