Obama Administration Proposes Limits on Standardized Testing


In an about-face, the Obama administration has proposed a cap on the amount of time students across the country spend taking standardized tests after facing increasing criticism from teachers and parents who feel that testing is causing classrooms to teach to requirements rather than to foster creativity.

According to the proposed limits, classroom instruction time spent on test taking should not total more than 2% per child.  The proposition suggests that parents be notified if students exceed the cap and to have an action plan posted “to describe the steps the state will take to review and eliminate unnecessary assessments,” reports Kate Zernike for The New York Times.

Richard A. Serrano for The Los Angeles Times writes that in response to a number of “opt-out” movements in New York State and across the country tied to the use of standardized tests for teacher evaluations, the administration also proposed an increase in the flexibility offered to states to create their own teacher evaluation systems that would include other measures of student progress.

The administration also promised technical support and funding for states looking to improve their usage of other measurements such as portfolios, projects and student surveys to evaluate the academic success for individual students and the school as a whole.  Congress is also being encouraged to offer funding states that would like to “audit” testing and reduce any low-quality exams, writes Anya Kamenetz for NPR.

In a video posted on Facebook, President Obama added, “I hear from parents who rightly 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 both for them and for the students. I want to fix that.”

Obama added that he did not plan on adjusting current federal requirements that students between grades 3 and 8 be tested each year on the subjects of math and reading and that students between grades 10 and 12 be tested at least once.  To that end, Congress appears to be in agreement, as updates to the main federal education law by both the House and the Senate keep the testing mandate intact.

According to a report from the Council of Great City Schools, do not constitute all the tests required by the federal government each year. Students also take formative, benchmark, diagnostic and practice exams.  In fact, the report found that the average student takes 112 standardized tests between preschool and high school and spends around 25 hours each year preparing for them.