President Barack Obama called for limiting the amount of time students are taking standardized tests and unveiled new guidelines that his administration would use to help schools across to administer more meaningful exams on Saturday.
The president’s remarks in an official Facebook video come amid growing debate over the implementation of standardized testing and a bipartisan effort in Congress to replace the No Child Left Behind Act.
Obama recommended school districts use no more than 2% of classroom time to take tests. He said “smart strategic tests” should be used alongside classroom work and other factors to “give us an all around look on how students” are performing.
“Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” the president said. “So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing ... to make sure that our kids are enjoying learning, that our teachers are able to operate with creativity, to make sure we are preparing our kids for a lifetime of success.”
He added that parents are concerned that too much time is being spent on testing and teachers are under heightened pressure to prepare students for exams.
The president's announcement comes just as the Council of the Great City Schools released a report about testing assessment in the country’s largest urban school districts. The report found that students in big-city schools will take, on average, about 112 mandatory standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and high school graduation — eight tests a year. In eighth grade, when tests fall most heavily, they get an average of about 20 to 25 hours, or 2.3% of school time.
Even though the president's proposal can not be enacted without legislation, it could build momentum in Congress to review the nation’s education laws.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the president’s proposal is “common sense.”
“The fixation on high-stakes testing hasn't moved the needle on student achievement,” she said in a statement. “Testing should help inform instruction, not drive instruction. We need to get back to focusing on the whole child —teaching our kids how to build relationships, how to be resilient and how to think critically. It’s why legislators on both sides of the aisle want to fix No Child Left Behind, a law that drove over testing.”
But Bob Schaeffer, director of Public Education of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a grassroots assessment reform group, said Obama’s plan “does not offer meaningful action to address that very real problem.”
“Congress and President Obama must quickly approve a new law overhauling ‘No Child Left Behind’ that eliminates federal test-and-punish mandates,” he said. “State and local policy makers need to heed their constituents. That will help clear the path for the implementation of better forms of assessment.”