After years of complaints from teachers, parents and students alike, the Obama administration on Saturday announced new policies toward standardized tests, saying kids spend too much time taking “unnecessary” tests in schools.
In a Facebook video message, President Barack Obama said he hears from parents who worry about “too much testing, and from teachers who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning.”
“I want to fix that,” he said.
The Department of Education said “the Administration bears some of the responsibility for” the problem, releasing a “Testing Action Plan” outlining new principles for measuring student aptitude. The plan says current policies have led to “unnecessary testing” with “not enough clarity of purpose.”
Obama said the new guidelines call for taking only the “tests that are worth taking”– that are “high quality, aimed at good instruction” and that ensure students are “on track.”
The plan recommends that students spend no more than 2% of classroom time taking these tests, and that parents be notified if their child’s school exceeds this limit.
Testing shouldn’t “crowd out teaching and learning” and should just be one of many tools to measure how students and schools are performing, Obama said.
Two major teachers unions lauded the announcement.
“It’s common sense,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “The fixation on high-stakes testing hasn’t moved the needle on student achievement.”
“It’s a big deal that the president and the secretaries of education-both current and future-are saying that they get it and are pledging to address the fixation on testing in tangible ways,” Weingarten said.
But, she added, “the devil is in the details.”
Meanwhile, the National Education Association tweeted an endorsement to Obama’s plan, writing on its official Twitter account, “Parents, students, educators: the administration has heard your voices! Students need #timetolearn!”
On Monday, Obama will meet with teachers and representatives of states and school districts to discuss the issue. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his deputy, John King, are expected to attend.