Monday, October 26, 2015

Obama meets with educators to talk about standardized testing - The Washington Post

Obama meets with educators to talk about standardized testing - The Washington Post:

Obama meets with educators to talk about standardized testing

South Valley Academy students protest new academic assessments after leaving class, Monday, March 2, 2015, in Albuquerque, N.M. (Roberto E. Rosales/AP)

President Obama is scheduled to discuss standardized testing with a group of educators at the White House on Monday, two days after acknowledging that his policies have helped lead to widespread overtesting in the nation’s public schools.
Obama is set to meet in the Oval Office with officials from the Council of the Great City Schools, which released a study Saturday that found standardized testing is overwhelming U.S. public schools.
Also expected at the private meeting are two teachers, Farida Mama, a 5th grade math teacher at UP Academy Dorchester , a Boston charter school, and Bootsie Battle-Holt, a math teacher at Marina Del Rey Middle School in Los Angeles. Both teachers are policy fellows with Teach Plus, a non-profit organization that aims to amplify the voices of teachers in education policy.
“We all have to look in the mirror and say what have we done to contribute to the issue,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday morning, speaking about the new study during a panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington.
A typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and 12th grade, the study found. By contrast, most countries that outperform the United States on international exams test students three times during their school careers.
But Duncan and other panelists emphasized that the time students spend testing is only part of the problem. Just as critical is the finding that the tests students take are disjointed, redundant and often fail to provide teachers with meaningful and timely information that they can use to improve instruction.
“For me, the biggest issue is not time, it’s the lack of instruction,” Duncan said.
The heaviest testing load falls on the nation’s eighth-graders, who spend an average of 25.3 hours during the school year taking standardized tests, uniform exams required of all students in a particular grade or course of study. Testing affects even the youngest students, with the average pre-K class giving 4.1 standardized tests, the report found.
The study analyzed tests given in the country’s 66 largest urban districts in the 2014-2015 school year. It did not count quizzes or tests created by classroom teachers, and it did not address the amount of time schools devote to test preparation.
It portrays a jumble, where tests have been layered upon tests under mandates from Congress, the U.S. Department of Education and state and local governments, many of which the study argues have questionable value to teachers and students. Testing companies that aggressively market new exams also share the blame, the study said.
In response to the study, Duncan released a “testing action plan” that calls for capping the amount of time that students spend testing at 2 percent of overall instructional time. A similar proposal is part of an education bill pending in the Senate.
But Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, said that Duncan’s proposed testing cap could have the perverse effect of making the testing system more incoherent.
“There is a very strong possibility that people will eliminate the tests that are actually useful,” Casserly said. Casserly said, for example, that the Boston Public Schools has decided to reduce its testing by half in response to the study’s findings.
A better approach, he has said, would be a coordinated effort among all players — federal, state and local — to come up with a more thoughtful system.
Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade schools, has significantly reduced the number of tests his students take. But he too said that a focus on the number of tests, or the time spent testing, is too simplistic.
“The next phase of the conversation cannot be about a cap,” he said. “It’s really a quantitative analysis. ... Can they actually improve teaching and learning? Are they useful to teachers, and do they transparently inform communities and parents about performance?”
Duncan was asked at Monday’s event whether the administration’s mea culpa Obama meets with educators to talk about standardized testing - The Washington Post: