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North Carolina Superintendent Says He's Trying To Reduce Testing For Young Students

Mark Johnson / Twitter

As students went back to school in Mecklenberg County and around the state today, North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson said he’s trying to reduce mandatory testing for younger students this year.

Johnson said he’s already started taking steps toward that goal in a statement released Monday. The superintendent said he’s used funds acquired through the Read to Achieve legislative initiative —a state law requiring that special attention be given to students who cannot read at grade level by third grade — to purchase iPad devices for K-3 classrooms. Johnson said the technology will allow teachers to monitor students’ reading progress online while the students work, rather than determining progress through testing.

Johnson said the effort to reduce testing follows a survey he sent to teachers last school year that showed 76 percent of teachers in the state think their students are tested too much.

“Your input guides our work,” Johnson told teachers Friday, according to a press release sent by his office. “We want to give you time back to do what you entered the profession to do: teach."

Johnson also said federal guidelines released by the Department of Public Instruction have eased up on how often K-3 students have to be tested, shifting their requirements to recommendations. But he reminded educators that he’s still bound by federal regulations.

“I can’t change federal law about standardized testing,” he said. “But where we can, we will be revising the testing protocols to remove unnecessarily strict guidelines to alleviate at least some of the stress and disruption that testing causes in the early grades.”

Johnson said he will urge the State Board of Education to eliminate certain tests required by board policies, not by state and federal law. He also said he will try to convince the Department of Public Instruction to change policies around end-of-year testing and how they are administered.