Yesterday President Obama and outgoing Secretary of Education announced a plan to reduce over-testing of our children. On the surface this was a "whoa" moment as the POTUS and Mr. Duncan's prized Race to the Top initiative doubled down on the Bush administration's NCLB test and punish model of education reform. A closer look shows this statement is another attempt, this time at the highest level, to save the test-based education system that has caused harm to our children and their public schools.
The two percent suggested limit on state testing and encouragement to "discourage and limit the amount of test preparation activities" are vague statements that show little knowledge of the reality in our classrooms. How many other types of test-based assessments are needed to meet the requirements for teacher evaluation, RTI, and student data? What about types of test-prep that are less obvious such as history and science topics embedded in short-canned ELA readings that look like real learning but match standardized tests in style and substance? History and science have often become relegated to second class status in elementary education because of this practice. Veteran Middle School Social Studies and Science teachers have noted in recent years how their students have a "random" knowledge of their subject matter due to the abandonment of history and science curricula at the elementary level in favor of the tested subjects of ELA and math. So much more time is lost to other types of test prep including classwork and homework that mirror the format of standardized assessments when students could be doing creative and critical thinking tasks that are more meaningful, fun and challenging.
If our elected leaders and education bureaucrats think a few talking points and vague edu-speak banter that will not bring about meaningful change and will get families to find value in the current test-based accountability system of education they need to step out from their ivory towers and actually listen to those on the front lines of our schools. As someone who has the pulse of the opt out movement from the various discussion groups, I can tell you that parents are not fooled by this nonsense.
We should know better as much of detail from the USDOE statement from yesterday is recycled from education reform groups so there really is nothing new here. But the fact that the testing situation is being discussed at the highest levels of our government is a sign that the parent led rebellion against high-stakes assessments is making waves.
What can parents do to continue to fight for our children's right to a well-rounded education: follow New York's led: OPT OUT. The corporate reformers, state education bureaucrats and many politicians are running scared. They have the money but we have the power--in numbers. Let's make the Spring of 2016 the largest testing rebellion in history.
Here are a few other looks at the misleading testing statements coming from President Obama and Secretary Duncan:
Teacher Peter Greene does a great job of breaking down the USDOE's statements.
More from Peter Greene on Arne Duncan's recycled talking points.
Reading between the lines: Obama's "Testing Action Plan"
USDOE: "Sorry/Not Sorry" on testing.
Anthony Cody: President Obama (Again) Blasts All the Tests His Administration Has Sponsored
NY Principal: How much testing is too much?