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Obama Administration Calls for Less Testing in Schools

Kid Hand On Computer MouseTeachers have been calling attention to the problem of overtesting in public schools for years, and this weekend the Obama administration finally responded by releasing a plan to reduce testing, saying no more than two percent of classroom instruction time should be spent on tests.

In a fact sheet on the new Testing Action Plan the U.S. Department of Education states, “In too many schools, there is unnecessary testing and not enough clarity of purpose applied to the task of assessing students, consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students. The Administration bears some of the responsibility for this, and we are committed to being part of the solution.”

The fact sheet sets forth principles for fewer and smarter assessments, saying that all assessments should be:

  • worth taking,
  • high quality,
  • time-limited,
  • fair,
  • fully transparent to students and parents,
  • just one of multiple measures, and
  • tied to improving learning.

Educators in Connecticut have found that SBAC does not meet many of these principles. Teachers want assessments that give them timely feedback and allow them to improve instruction for students.

Connecticut has already rejected the SBAC exam for eleventh graders, and CEA representatives on the state’s Mastery Examination Committee are advocating for a better approach for students in grades three through eight.

Marcia Ferreira, a Windsor teacher, and Donald Williams, CEA director of Poilcy Research, and Reform—CEA’s representatives on the committee—are conducting a listening tour at meetings around the state. They have been hearing many teachers’ suggestions for ways to fix Connecticut’s flawed testing system, and will bring the ideas back to the Mastery Examination Committee.

The committee must submit an interim report to the legislature on or before February 15, 2016. A final report is due on January 15, 2017.

  1. John Bestor #

    It is important that our membership and its leadership, particularly those members on the CEA Mastery Examination Committee, not be fooled by President Obama’s new Testing Action Plan. The USDOE and its corporate reform supporters as well as Bill & Melinda Gates have no intention of holding back on the high-stakes SBAC & PARCC tests that – against any reasoned arguments – they continue to promote as fair and valuable assists in measuring student academic progress. Despite many well researched claims to the contrary, the powerful self-interests that direct federal education policies want the public to think that they have listened to the growing opt-out movement and concerned parents who are becoming increasingly more knowledgeable. I certainly hope that the CEA Mastery Examination Committee will not become complacent in light of this disingenuous and shameful ruse. The educational malpractice of incessant testing must be stopped in order to protect public education from the pro-reform, privatization agenda that continues to come out of Washington, DC. Until the CEA is willing to demonstrate meaningful push-back, parents and teachers (who are also parents) have one viable choice: to opt their children out of unproven test protocols which unfairly treat all students, but are especially discriminatory to students in low-performing school districts.

    October 26, 2015

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