Finally, Obama Denounces America’s Standardized Testing Obsession


On Saturday, the Obama administration announced that its push towards high-stakes standardized testing had gone too far and urged schools to limit tests to those that were meaningful indicators of progress. Specifically, the administration called for a cap so that no student would spend more than two percent of classroom time on standardized tests, and called on Congress to “reduce over-testing.”

“Learning is about so much more than filling in the right bubble,” the president said in a speech posted on the White House Facebook site.

The announcement represents a significant change in course for the Obama administration, which had been facing mounting bipartisan criticism for focusing too much on tests at the expense of a focus on creativity and critical thinking. According to a report by the Council of Great City Schools which reviewed the country’s 66 largest school districts, students are required to take about 112 standardized exams between kindergarten and 12th grade.

It’s unclear how much a two percent cap on tests will truly affect students; according to the Council of Great Schools report, the tests fall most heavily on eighth graders, who spend 20 to 25 hours, or about 2.3 percent of classroom time, on standardized tests. Furthermore, the announcement didn’t address the amount of time spent preparing for tests.

 

If our kids had more free time at school, what would you want them to do with it? A) Learn to play a musical…

Posted by The White House on Saturday, October 24, 2015

Still, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the announcement a victory. “The fixation on high-stakes testing hasn’t moved the needle on student achievement,” she said in a statement. “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.”

Outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged that “At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation.” Duncan is meeting with Obama today to discuss how to limit redundant and low-quality testing.

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.