Home > Uncategorized > Obama Backs Away From Tests… Celebration On Hold As Details Unfold

Obama Backs Away From Tests… Celebration On Hold As Details Unfold

In a piece of startlingly good news, Kate Zernike of the NYTimes reports that President Obama has decided to back down on the standardized testing regimen that George Bush launched and his administration reinforced… a regimen that has strangled creativity and the love of learning. The lead paragraphs read:

Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.

Specifically, the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.

The article cites numerous political issues that helped compel the administration to abandon the testing regimen, but in the end, the primary reason the tests are being abandoned is simple: after 12 years nothing has changed in terms of performance as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress:

….a new survey from the Council of the Great City Schools, which set out to determine exactly how much testing is happening among its members…. found that students in the nation’s big-city schools will take, on average, about 112 mandatory standardized tests between prekindergarten and high school graduation — eight tests a year. In eighth grade, when tests fall most heavily, they consume an average of 20 to 25 hours, or 2.3 percent of school time. The totals did not include tests like Advanced Placement exams or the ACT.

There was no evidence, the study found, that more time spent on tests improved academic performance, at least as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a longstanding test sometimes referred to as the nation’s report card.

Zernike reports that Obama, Duncan, and Duncan’s successor John King are all on the same page on this change and that Mr. King will be issuing a “testing action plan” in January that will help school districts determine the scope of tests that will be mandated going forward. I, along with thousands of other educators and millions of parents and school children, eagerly await the detailed guidelines… for they will indicate how profound a change is in the offing.

One other piece of good news that might come out of this: education policy might come to the fore in the forthcoming election— and I have to believe the party that embraces the abandonment of the testing regimen will gain the support of a huge bloc of voters…. and the debate that ensues over accountability will set a new course for schooling in the years to come.

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