How much time do D.C. Public Schools spend testing?

This post has been updated with data from a revised version of the Teach Plus report. The original version of the report included incorrect data for Chicago, which affected two of the graphics and the average test time for all urban districts. 

D.C. Public Schools do not spend as much time on testing as some other urban school districts, according to a new report from the national nonprofit Teach Plus.

Teach Plus examined school system assessment calendars in 12 large cities and found that kids spend an average of 1.7 percent of their time testing each year. But there is huge variation, with kids in high-testing districts spending three times as many hours on testing as kids in low-testing districts.

And teachers surveyed by Teach Plus said that they actually lose much more instructional time to testing than is reflected on official calendars. Elementary-school teachers said they spent more than twice the amount of time testing than accounted for on the calendars.

With that caveat in mind: Kindergartners in D.C. Public Schools spend about 1.7 hours per year on standardized tests, according to the report, compared to zero hours in Shelby County, Tenn.; 3.1 hours on average; and 10 hours in Atlanta. (See charts below.)


Kindergartners in D.C. Public Schools spend 1.7 hours per year testing — less than the urban average, according to Teach Plus.

D.C. third-graders spend 14.3 hours per year testing, compared to 7.6 hours in Chicago; 16.6 hours on average; and 25 hours in Cleveland.


D.C. seventh-graders spend 17 hours testing — about the same as the average, 17.1 hours.


The report urges policymakers to consult teachers as they seek to streamline tests and to more accurately reflect the amount of instructional time teachers and students lose to tests.

D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson recently established a task force to study testing, consult with parents and teachers, and recommend changes to ensure that the school system is only administering essential tests.

The task force includes two teachers, two instructional coaches, six principals and three instructional superintendents. It also includes Henderson and 16 other representatives from DCPS, including the offices of Teaching and Learning, Human Capital, Specialized Instruction, Data and Strategy and Family and Public Engagement.

“What’s important now is how schools, parents and students can use the information we get from testing and how schools coordinate testing to ensure we minimize the impact on student learning time,” Henderson said in a statement Thursday. “Our taskforce is helping us look holistically at testing in DCPS to ensure our use of tests is smart and placed in the proper perspective.”

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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