By Blake Neff
In a surprising announcement Saturday, President Barack Obama sharply shifted his administration’s position on standardized tests, saying testing has gone too far and needs to be rolled back. Not only that, but the Obama administration admitted it deserved much of the blame for excessive testing.
The announcement came via a video Obama released on Facebook Saturday, where he proposes a series of policy changes to make testing less prominent in schools.
Currently, the federal No Child Left Behind law requires states to test children once annually in math and reading from grades 3-8, as well as once in high school. They also need to be tested at least three times in science. In addition to these federal requirements, states have enacted dozens of their own tests to measure achievement in additional grades or to cover subjects such as social studies. The Obama administration says it still supports annual testing, but it believes other forms of testing are overkill and should be rolled back.
“Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” Obama said in the video. “So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.”
In his video, Obama proposed that schools cap their assessments so that no more than 2 percent of school time each year is spent taking tests (in a typical 180-day school year, this would amount to about three and a half days of testing). He also suggested that Congress could work to “reduce over-testing” as it labors to possibly update No Child Left Behind later this year.
Obama and outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan plan to meet with teaching professionals Monday in order to outline their new plan for cutting down on tests.
Duncan released a statement of his own acknowledging that his department had done its part in driving testing mania.
“It’s important that we’re all honest with ourselves,” Duncan said, according to The New York Times. “At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.”
Obama’s concession is a win for left-leaning teachers unions, which have fiercely fought the administration on the issue of testing.
“Today it’s clear: Parents, students and educators, your voice matters and you were heard,” said the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers union, in a statement.
The president’s new course of action coincides with a new study released by the Council for Great City Schools which finds that the typical 8th-grader spends about 2.3 percent of their time taking tests, and that children take about 112 total standardized tests by the time they graduate.
The recent shift to new standardized tests aligned with Common Core has fueled a significant backlash against tests across the country. In New York, more than 20 percent of children were pulled out of tests by their parents, many of whom were egged on by the state’s teachers unions.
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