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Obama administration deems standardized tests ‘unnecessary’

Students who constantly stress over the pressures of standardized testing may soon have less to worry about. President Barack Obama announced there will be new guidelines to ward standardized testing in the U.S. Obama said kids spend too much time taking “unnecessary” tests during class time.

Obama said he made his decision based on years of complaints from students, teachers and parents alike.

“But I also hear from parents who rightly worry about too much testing, and from teachers who have so much pressure to teach from a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning both for them and the students. I want to fix this,” said Obama in a video posted on Facebook.

The Department of Education released a “Testing Action Plan” that outlines new principles for measuring student aptitude. The plan said the ongoing policies have led to “unnecessary testing” with “not enough clarity of purpose.”

Students of all ages are constantly put under pressure during their time enrolled in school, and the consistent push from teachers to focus on a standardized test that won’t really matter in the long run is a waste of time and resources. Things such as peer pressure and the bizarre changes that occur during puberty are enough for adolescents to handle. The added expectation that they have to memorize dozens of math equations as well as the “proper” way to analyze a piece of literature, so they can prove that they are ready for the next grade level, is quite ridiculous.

Admission requirements for universities and colleges across the U.S. include that applicants submit national test scores from exams such as the SAT and ACT. Shouldn’t educators focus on that, instead of a standardized test that won’t help students at all? Exams such as the SAT include topics that college-bound students will encounter during their time pursuing an undergraduate degree, however, statewide exams such as the FCAT, only promote stress and can cause students to lose focus on why they are in school in the first place.

According to standardizedtests.procon.org, standardized testing has not improved student achievement. After the “No Child Left Behind Act,” the U.S. slipped from 18th in the world in math to 31st in 2009. Science had a similar drop, and there was no change in reading.

Experts, such as the late education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, believe that standardized testing makes up only a small portion of what makes getting an education a meaningful experience for students. Bracey stated that standardized testing can’t measure qualities such as creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance or self-discipline.

Not only are standardized tests taking up the time of students, but teachers’ time and effort as well. In 2007, a study held at the University of Maryland during the course of five years, found that “the pressure teachers were feeling to ‘teach to the test’ since “No Child Left Behind” was leading to “declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum.”

Instruction time in classrooms is being absorbed by repetitive test preparation as well. Some schools across the country dedicate more than a quarter of the year’s lessons to test prep. After math and reading scores in New York City in 2010, several schools appointed extra measures to avoid being shut down, including daily two and a half hour prep sessions and test practice required on vacation days.

In the wake of the national change to common core state standards and the discussion of free college during the first Democratic national debate, education is and always will be a hot topic in discussion in the U.S.

With Obama’s initiative soon taking effect, there will hopefully be positive changes to standardized testing and its effect on students.

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