LAUSD teachers union to challenge number of tests students take

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

For years, teachers unions and activists in California have protested that there’s too much testing in public schools that eats away at precious learning time.

The largest teachers union in California, United Teachers Los Angeles, is now beginning steps to challenge the number of tests given in the 650,000 student school district -- or to at least document exactly how much testing is happening.

“We want a full documentation of what standardized tests are used, at what grade levels, how much instructional time they take up, how much time they take to prepare for, who the testing publishing companies are, and what they’re supposed to measure,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl.

The school district requires too many tests, he said, so the first step is to know how many are being given.

UTLA leaders said their challenge to standardized tests will be part of a national effort ramping up next month. The union is highlighting the experiences of teachers like Ingrid Villeda, a fifth grade teacher at 93rd Street Elementary School in South L.A.

“The last time I counted there were 26 assessments scheduled for the year,” she said.

The tests include three tests for math, three tests in language arts, and tests for students whose first language isn’t English.

“I’ve decided that I’m not going to do all this crazy testing because it doesn’t make me a better teacher,” Villeda said.

An L.A. Unified spokeswoman said Villeda’s number is off by about half. That kind of confusion is one of the reasons UTLA wants a sit down with district officials to clarify what teachers are expected to do.

State Board of Education President Michael Kirst said that the union's challenge to the district was actually about the ways that schools use assessments, not just about the quantity.

"That’s not less testing, that’s better testing," he said. Kirst said the state board will give the state legislature a state testing plan that will outline how tests are to be used to hold schools accountable.

L.A. Unified says it will work with state officials on this effort.

Criticism of the amount of testing in schools has trickled up from national education associations to the White House.

UTLA officials said they will be part of a national mobilization next month that will highlight unnecessary testing.