President Wants to Reduce Over-testing

President Obama wants to reduce standardized testing in the United States. He believes students spend too much time taking the tests, and teachers and administrators are essentially wasting precious teaching time by administering the exams.

High-stakes, narrowly designed tests stifle learning by limiting the scope of lessons. Educators are forced to teach to the test rather than develop a well-rounded curriculum. A 2011 survey found that 66 percent of teachers reported that science, humanities, art, music, physical education, field trips and other enrichment activities were being “crowded out” to make room for test prep—depriving students of the complete education needed to compete in a global economy. Even Diane Ravitch, education historian and former assistant secretary of education under President George H. W. Bush, is disillusioned with the legislation despite having originally supported it. Visit https://dianeravitch.net/ to learn more.

“Standardized testing has directed too much attention to a few content areas that are easily tested, sacrificing lessons that build kids’ natural curiosity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills,” said PSEA President Jerry Oleksiak. “The high stakes associated with standardized tests have led to days of mindless test-prep and remediation. That’s not real teaching, and it certainly isn’t real learning.”

The President made a bold and well-informed decision on December 10th, 2015, when he signed into law the ESSA, or Every Student Succeeds Act, which offered new nonbinding guidelines aimed at limiting standardized exams to no more than 2% of the instructional time in a classroom.

The ESSA returns decision making for our nation’s education back where it belongs – in the hands of local educators, parents and communities – while keeping the focus on students most in need. Simply stated, the Every Student Succeeds Act will help ensure that all students, regardless of their ZIP code, will have the support, tools, and time to learn that they need to succeed and that educators’ voices are part of the decision making process at all levels.

And while the passage of the ESSA was a huge step in the right direction, there still needs to be accountability on everyone’s part in order to achieve and gather results while we look for more productive and useful methods to help our students thrive—not just to label them with a simple score.

The National Education Association recommends a variety of testing measures beyond multiple-choice tests such as essays, presentations, projects and educator observations to provide a more complete picture of students’ progress. If test results are decoupled from draconian accountability measures, teachers can help students to develop critical thinking and problem solving—crucial skills in our modern world.