Obama Administration calls for a cap on standardized tests

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In a video released on Saturday Oct. 24, President Barack Obama and his administration called for a 2 percent cap on the amount of classroom time teachers could allot to prepare for standardized testing. In addition to this announcement, the Obama administration took responsibility for their part in highlighting tests as the sole method of holding schools, teachers and students accountable.

According to the proposal, tests should be high quality and aimed to ensure all students are on track while improving the learning process by taking up a portion of a student’s education, instead of overtaking teaching entirely. This declaration received bipartisan support as members of both political parties have recently supported tests as only a part of education rather than the sole settlement for a student’s achievements.

“Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” Obama stated in the video. “So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.”

The new efforts to alter standardized testing diverts from the Bush administration where tests directly affected the amount of funding a school received based on the outcome of the standardized test. Under a bill called The No Child Left Behind Act, schools and teachers were held directly accountable for students who failed to perform up to par on standardized testing.

Schools who did not meet the standard would be forced to implement new teaching standards that focus on testing along with the possibility of changing the staff if a teacher’s class did not perform well. This caused a direct increase on the amount of time schools spent preparing students for the test instead of teaching the actual curriculum.

Both houses of Congress are currently working on revamping the No Child Left Behind Act. The new version of the No Child Left Behind Act would keep annual math and reading standardized testing but the tests would no longer be the only source of judgment for how well educators and students are performing.

“I believe the importance of students being able to comprehend and grasp the curriculum in his or her own way is much more important than being able to be a good standardized test taker. Not all students are able to execute the method of standardized testing well. Each and every student is different,” said sophomore public policy major Trina Benavidez.

While the administration hopes to eventually pass federal legislation capping the amount of time allotted to test preparations, they also want to offer individual districts and states the support and necessary tools needed to cut down on testing in light of current lack of legislation.

The Obama administration has asked the Department of Education to guide states in meeting federal testing mandates in more innovative, less time consuming ways, such as handing out federal waivers to the testing required by the No Child Left Behind Act when taking the test is deemed redundant for a student.

“We can limit the amount of testing and preparing for testing but the pressure behind standardized testing won’t go away unless there are major changes to the way we hold students and teachers accountable for standard test scores,” said Graduate School of Education Dean Thomas Smith.

The two largest teachers unions, The American Federation of Teachers and The National Education Association both support less testing and are in favor of Obama’s new proposal. The two politically powerful unions have long been in debate with the White House as a result of the administration’s previous push for standardized testing.

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