What President Obama Didn’t Say About Standardized Testing

About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Foundation Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

On Saturday, October 24th, President Obama came out with a wholehearted message about his concern about how much schools, teachers, and students were focusing on standardized testing. He began his speech with a pop quiz, asking parents what school options they would like to provide students who had more time to learn and what they could do with it. His answer, like yours and mine, includes just about everything – other than more tests. President Obama came out with a wholehearted message about his concern about how much schools, teachers, and students were focusing on testing.

The President provided a three-pronged approach to tackle testing moving forward. They involve:

1.Students should only take tests that are worth taking.

2.Test should enhance teaching and learning.

3.Tests should give us an all-around look at how our students are learning and doing.

 

President Obama said he wanted “to hold all of us accountable” so that “in moderation, tests could… help students learn.” He also noted that the stress of tests “ruin” the fundamentals of education and wanted to “make sure we’re not obsessing about testing.” The problem is – we are…He also noted that the stress of tests “ruin” the fundamentals of education and wanted to “make sure we’re not obsessing about testing.” The problem is – we are.

What the President failed to inform the public of is the painful process teachers, students, and parents have endured up to this point. Here is a Cliff Notes version of what testing has done to the face of education over the past decade:

1 – More than 2/3 of teenage students report moderate to severe stress from school, and that’s namely from tests and work surrounding them

2 – That the “tests we’ve been taking,” might not be worth taking, but they’re certainly testing the limits of profitability, as testing generates nearly $700 million in profits for just the 4 largest companies

3 – That, those same 4 largest companies have spent nearly $20 million lobbying in the last 5 years to ensure their tests, not merely the “ones worth taking,” are what public money is spent on

4 – The overall costs of standardized tests in America is nearly $2 billion, which is more than the amount of money Hollywood generates in the same period

The annual costs of #standardizedtests in America is nearly $2 billion, which is more than Hollywood generates Click To Tweet

5 – Those who grade the standardized tests are often temporary and/or college student employees who don’t necessarily need or have a degree, let alone the degree in the field, to calculate the scores

6 – That, until Common Core is either realigned or scrapped, testing won’t go away either in the same way we tell our students to work less at home but assign the same amount of homework

7 – Similarly, until poverty is able to be faced in schools of low-income and low-resources, low test scores are going to continue to follow

8- When schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB, school employees would first be fired in an attempt to move the schools towards charter schools. The problem with that? With similar populations, public schools almost always outperform charters, but the latter is more fraught with waste and mismanagement

9 – Teachers are unable to view standardized tests ahead of time, which causes us to wonder – how exactly will they ever “enhance learning and teaching?”

10 – Lastly, that nearly half of the nation’s teachers have considered leaving the profession, mostly due to standardized testing.

President Obama is right to move in this direction away from standardized assessment. However, one speech does not change the toxic torrent of testing that drain and throw blame around schools today. He, the Congress, and the states need to do more to help our students.

 

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About the Author:

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Foundation Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

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