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Detroit schools move to cut back on testing by 70%

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Detroit Public Schools

Detroit public school students could soon be spending a lot less time on testing during the school year.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is moving to cut the number of assessments they give students across the district by 70 percent — from administering 186 tests down to 57 tests.

Although DPSCD superintendent Nikolai Vitti has only been on the job a couple of months, he says the resounding complaint he hears from teachers in the district is that there’s just too much testing. Take kindergarten students, he says. They take ten district tests during the year. 

"Someone has to ask themselves: why are we giving three reading tests, three math tests and four social studies tests in kindergarten?" says Vitti.

Under DPSCD's proposed new testing plan, kindergarten students would only take the three state-mandated tests in reading. It would allow teachers to use their own tools to assess how students are doing in the other subject areas.

The district will continue to administer all state-mandated assessments and those tests which are required for teacher evaluations. The remaining tests will focus on students in grades that have a state assessment at the end of the year. Those students will be tested three times throughout the year so teachers can monitor progress and provide intervention and support before it's time to take the state exam.

Vitti says he hopes the return to "teaching over testing" will help retain and recruit teachers to the district and create a working environment where "teachers feel respected and they can do what we employ them to do, which is teach, not test."

The academic sub-committee of the DPSCD school board approved the new testing calendar, but the full board still needs to vote. Vitti says that vote is expected Aug. 15.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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