MO House bill restricts time schools can prep for state testing

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JEFFERSON CITY - A House education committee will hear a bill Monday that would, among other things, limit the amount schools can prepare students for state-wide testing.

HB 1943, introduced by Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles would enforce a two percent cap on the number of hours a school district is allowed to spend on curriculum that focuses on standardized testing.

The two percent figure is based on the number of hours students spend in school.

Right now, the minimum amount of time students spend in school is 1,044 hours. That means schools would only be allowed to use a little over 20 hours of their curriculum on standardized test prep.

"I just don't want students in there an hour a week to study for a test in May," Wood said. "I understand the need for practice but it doesn't need to be excessive."

One Hickman high school teacher disagreed with the two percent cap, saying it's not enough time to prepare students for the tests.

"That would greatly hurt our kids, it's not just teaching material that's on the test but teaching the material as how to take the test," science teacher Terese Dishaw said. "It's not fair to the kids if we can't teach our best if we are limited with what we can do."

According to Wood, the longest test takes less than 8 hours, which he says gives students more than an hour a month to practice.

"Some districts have gone to almost an extreme in trying to prepare their students for that exam and to me that takes away from the education. I would rather see them learning and not worry about the test." 

Dishaw said every year teachers get kids who learn at different paces, even though they're in the same class.

"It takes time, we're always constantly changing what we need to do...and if we get limited on our time, it really hurts us as a teacher."

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the following statement in response to the bill proposal: "Currently, students spend well below 2 percent of their time taking Missouri Assessment Program tests. High quality assessments provide parents with useful information about their child’s progress on state grade-level and course-level standards. The best preparation for these tests is simply high quality curriculum and effective instruction.”   

The hearing is scheduled for noon in the House hearing room 1 at the State Capitol.

Other parts that the bill include:

*Giving school districts the ability to create their own calendar year, without a "minimum number of days" requirement. This means that if school districts want to change the number of hours in each school day to be more or less they can do that as long as they meet the 1,044 school hour quota by the end of the year.

*Addresses the possibility of fully funding the foundation formula, which regulates funding for school districts in the state. The funding needed could range from $15 million to $50 million.

Gov. Nixon recommended an additional $85 million for the foundation formula. However, this bill would require additional funding for schools that have summer school programs.

*Requiring a cap on attendance for summer schools. This would include the summer school program to have the discretion of how many hours for each school day as long as it doesn't exceed 180 hours. It would also require all summer school programs to start after Memorial Day.

*School districts that exceed 1,200 hours throughout the school year will receive a funding bonus.