Behind the Headline: Obama Proposes Capping Standardized Testing at 2% of Classroom Time

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Obama Proposes Capping Standardized Testing at 2% of Classroom Time
L.A. Times | 10/24/15

Behind the Headline
The 2015 EdNext Poll on School Reform
Education Next | Winter 2016

On Saturday, the Obama administration outlined new guidelines meant to limit the amount of standardized testing students experience.  The administration called on states and districts to cap the amount of time students spend taking standardized tests at 2 percent of the time students spend in classrooms. President Obama announced the policy change in a video posted on Facebook.

As Kate Zernike notes in the New York Times, the administration’s “testing action plan” is meant to guide school districts but does not have the force of law.

The administration stated  that the current focus on testing is “consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students.” It called for tests to be high-quality, a limited part of the curriculum and just one measurement of a student’s progress.

“It’s important that we’re all honest with ourselves,” President Obama stated in the announcement. “At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.”

The announcement “was prompted in part by the anticipation of a new survey from the Council of the Great City Schools, which set out to determine exactly how much testing is happening among its members. That survey, also released Saturday, found that students in the nation’s big-city schools will take, on average, about 112 mandatory standardized tests between prekindergarten and high school graduation — eight tests a year,” reports Zernike.


The 2015 EdNext poll included several questions meant to gauge public support for testing. It found that

A solid 67% of members of the public say they support continuing the federal requirement for annual testing, while just 21% oppose the idea, with the remainder taking a neutral position. Parental support for testing (66%) is about as high as that of the public as a whole. Teachers are divided down the middle, with 47% saying yes and 46% saying no to continuing the policy.

In 2012, the last time we asked this question, 63% of the public said they supported annual testing, and only 12% opposed. In other words, the shares of supporters and opponents are both slightly higher in 2015 than they were three years ago, with the share taking a neutral position declining from 25% to 13%. This shift could suggest that public opinion has crystallized in the intervening years (but it may also reflect the fact that our survey presented the neutral response option more prominently in 2012). Either way, the backlash against standardized testing appears less potent than opponents claim.

—Education Next

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