Duval Co. schools to reduce student testing

Superintendent announces fewer tests for students, less paperwork for teachers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County School District announced Thursday what it called a big step forward for both teachers and students in Jacksonville.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the district has a plan to cut down on the amount of testing for students, which in turn reduces the amount of paperwork teachers are required to do.

Elementary school students will now only have to take 10 required tests a year, compared to the 23 they are used to taking. Middle and high school students will now take 12 required tests each year compared to the 29 they took in an average year.

The idea for the new testing plans came out of a survey that the district handed out to teachers. Many of the teachers reported they did take their work home with them, because there simply wasn't enough time to finish their work during school hours.

School Board member Becki Couch is a former teacher, and said she knows exactly what teachers are going through when it comes to their work load.

"I think in an age of accountability. I think it's unfortunate we want to hold teachers accountable to data and student progress, yet we're going to be very prescriptive on the front end for teachers on, 'This is the documentation we want you to do, this is the rigid structure you have to follow.' If we're providing a script and we're requiring them to follow it, then how do you hold them accountable on the end on student achievement?" Couch said. "The student achievement could be a result of the script and not necessarily the delivery."

The district said this plan will not only save the district money that would have been spent on toner and paper, but it will also reduce the amount of work teachers have to do. Vitti said he hopes this will make a big difference in student performance and help keep teachers from burning out.  

"By empowering the teacher, I think that gives them the ability to dig deeper with students by empowering them through taking off the handcuffs of the copious amounts of paperwork we were making them produce," Couch said.

Couch said it was unrealistic to hold teachers responsible for student progress when they're given such a rigid structure to follow at the beginning of the year. She added that teachers should be allowed to use their judgement when dealing with their students' needs.