SALT LAKE CITY — Amid a heated debate over whether to eliminate Utah's current year-end testing system, parents and educators asked lawmakers Tuesday to support a resolution to study ways to reduce the number of tests students are required to take.
Many also expressed concerns that tests have deviated from their purpose of informing instruction to a high-stakes approach in evaluating schools and teachers, allocating funds, and grouping students.
Ann Florence, who used to teach eighth- and ninth-graders in the Granite School District, said students' apathy toward performance on exams is growing as the amount of time spent on testing increases.
"There is terrible test burnout," Florence said. "That little love of learning is so fragile at that age, and to keep it alive takes every bit of effort from a teacher. And when so much time is taken up with testing, I just see attitudes toward school plummeting."
Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, is sponsoring HCR7, which would ask state education leaders to conduct a study of current testing protocols to see whether testing could be reduced, especially high-stakes tests.
The resolution says since implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, Utah has had to shift its focus from teaching to testing, putting pressure on teachers to spend more time preparing students to take tests and less time on holistic education.
The resolution was amended by members of the House Education Committee to include parents as stakeholders in the process of evaluating Utah's testing methods.
Poulson said the "constituent-driven" initiative is meant to call attention to the issue and to search collaboratively for solutions. The resolution asks stakeholders to present a report by the September interim legislative session.
"What this is is the beginning of a discussion," Poulson said. "If we're spending so much of our time weighing and measuring and not feeding, it becomes a problem."
The resolution passed the committee in a 9-1 vote and now goes before the House.