President Obama makes case for “smarter” standardized testing

Compiled by the National School Boards Association’s National Connection Daily

In a Huffington Post (10/26, Obama) op-ed titled “An Open Letter To America’s Parents And Teachers: Let’s Make Our Testing Smarter,” President Obama yesterday called for limits on standardized testing in schools, arguing that he has “heard from parents who worry that too much testing is keeping their kids from learning some of life’s most important lessons,” and from teachers “who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning, both for them and for the students.” The President went on to outline the Administration’s Testing Action Plan, noting that kids “should only take tests that are worth taking,” tests “shouldn’t occupy too much classroom time, or crowd out teaching and learning,” and tests “should be just one source of information.”

Chris Jansing reported on NBC Nightly News (10/26, story 7, 2:15, Holt) that in “a major reversal,” the Administration “is saying enough, calling on schools to cut back testing to no more than two percent of class time.” Under the White House plan, “annual standardized testing will stay as an assessment tool, but fewer overall tests with more local control.” NBC News (10/26) also carries a report online.

The Atlantic (10/26) reported on its website that the Administration’s “high-profile pitch to reduce testing” comes in reaction to an analysis by the Council of Great City Schools, which “offers an unprecedented look at the testing load in large urban districts across the nation, finding considerable redundancy and a lack of coordination among the exams.” According to the analysis, “on average, students take over 110 federally, state, or locally mandated assessments between kindergarten and 12th grade,” and at “the eighth-grade level, where the testing load is the highest, test-taking accounts for 2.34 percent of the student’s instructional time.”

Obama, Duncan, King meet with educators on testing. The Washington Post (10/27, Brown) reports that the President met with two teachers “along with a cadre of federal, state and city education officials” at the White House on Monday. Several people in attendance “said the president made it clear that some minimum amount of standardized testing is needed to hold schools accountable for educating all children, especially those from groups that have been historically underserved.” The Post adds that he “mused that one solution could be to give a short assessment at the beginning of the school year to establish a baseline and a brief test at the end to measure student growth.”

Testing time cap sparks controversy. US News & World Report (10/26) reports that the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools are taking issue with “the administration’s recommendation that schools cap the amount of time students spend taking tests at 2 percent” saying it could drive districts to cut tests “blindly” irrespective of their value. The article quotes Council of Great City Schools Executive Director Michael Casserly saying, “It’s not clear to me that a one-size-fits-all cap is the solution. It will reduce time, but the issue of quality won’t be addressed.”

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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