Home > Uncategorized > A Closer Look At Obama’s Testing Pronouncement: There’s No There There

A Closer Look At Obama’s Testing Pronouncement: There’s No There There

After reading several articles on President Obama’s recent pronouncement that we are over testing children and that we should therefore limit testing to 2% of a student’s class time I have come to the conclusion that nothing substantive will change. Unsurprisingly, the Network for Public Education (NPE), Diane Ravitch’s think tank, issued the most insightful response to the President’s announcement. In a Press Release published yesterday, blogger and NPE officer Anthony Cody offered this observation:

“Limiting testing to 2% is a symbolic gesture that will have little impact so long as these tests are used for high stakes purposes.

While the Department of Education remains wed to annual high-stakes tests, it is time for states and districts to call their bluff regarding flexibility. The research coming forward is clear. The overuse of standardized testing is educational malpractice. States should drop the destructive pseudoscience of VAM, empower educators to create their own meaningful assessments of learning, and get off the testing juggernaut.”

Formative testing– periodic tests and/or quizzes to make certain students have grasped the content presented by the teacher– is a bedrock of good instruction and has always been a crucial element of public education. Summative testing– annual or tri-annual standardized examinations designed to compare students to others in their age cohort– have also been used to help schools determine if they are setting sufficiently high curriculum expectations. When summative examinations are used to rank students, teachers, and schools they are destructive and unproductive because they drive the pace and content of instruction limiting the creativity of both the students and the teachers. After 12 years we know that this is true: we’ve seen schools whose students are not performing well on these standardized tests replace arts, science, recess, and related arts courses and units with test preparation courses and units. Students in these schools know how to take tests but don’t know how to think independently. Worse, they never get the opportunity to read for pleasure or read to explore areas of interest to them.

Carol Burris, a retired NYS administrator, NPE officer, and blogger, concludes the press release with this:

“Testing is the rock on which a host of destructive corporate reforms are built.  That era must end.  It is time that we commit to well-funded, vibrant public schools that are democratically governed by the communities they serve”

The last sentence, the one calling for a commitment to “…well-funded, vibrant public schools that are democratically governed by the communities they serve“, is the one we want to hear a Presidential candidate say. Until schools are well-funded and democracy is restored, the percent of time spent testing is immaterial.

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