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Testing reduction changes face a hurdle in the Senate

A bill that could have dramatically decreased the number of standardized tests North Carolina students take faltered in the Senate tonight.

Senate Bill 621 already made its way through the Senate once but was changed in the House and came back before the Senate to see if state Senators agreed with the changes. The Senate voted unanimously to reject the House changes to the bill. The only possible way testing reductions could still move forward is if a conference committee of House and Senate members can work out a compromise. 

While in the House, state representatives essentially changed the bill to merge testing reduction plans proposed by both the House — in a separate bill — and the Senate. 

Both the House and Senate bills originally eliminated the NC Final Exams in high school. This modified version of the bill would have also done that. The bill also adopted a House proposal to replace End-of-Grade (EOG) tests in grades K-8 with three shorter tests, dubbed “check-ins,” throughout the school year.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, called out that portion of the bill as a reason to reject the House changes. 

“Only the House could take a reduction-in-testing bill and add testing to the bill,” he said. 

In high school, End-of-Course tests would have been replaced with the ACT under the bill.

The House version of the bill originally eliminated testing performed by local districts. The version of the bill voted on tonight kept the Senate plan instead, which would require districts to monitor the number of local tests given. If students spent too much time taking tests, then the bill said the districts would have to come up with a plan to reduce local testing.  

The bill also would have eliminated graduation requirements for high school students to graduate. 

While many education leaders have been pushing for changes to standardized testing requirements, the NC Chamber, at least, balked at the move from EOGs to the “check-ins” in grades K-8, though for different reasons than Tillman.

In its web post about the testing changes, the Chamber had this to say about the move to “check-ins.”

“North Carolina has been testing a pilot program called NC Check-Ins that also uses a similar assessment schedule throughout the year, but there seems to be insufficient data proving the effectiveness of this testing strategy. Before committing to a full change like this, we would encourage the legislature to request better documentation from the Department of Public Instruction on their NC Check-Ins program and carefully consider the impact the change would have on students.”

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.