If executed correctly, standardized testing is the most effective -- and least costly -- way to gauge whether students are learning, said Sandy Kress, a Texas lawyer who helped write No Child Left Behind and now lobbies for education publisher Pearson. However, he said, some districts are doing too much, with drills and benchmark testing every six weeks. He said such "overtesting" has sparked a growing "opt out" movement, in which parents are choosing to opt students out of standardized tests and some teachers are boycotting the exams.

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