LETTER: Obama and reading tests... 'With the proposed reductions, there will still be plenty of tests, and they will still be administered online, a huge and ever-growing boondoggle that bleeds money from schools...'

In my e-mail today I received a note from President Obama which included this statement: "We need a better education plan -- one that cuts standardized testing to a bare minimum ...". Of course I agree (see Krashen, 2008), but the proposed reduction in testing that has been submitted to congressional committees, appears to be only a modest cutback from the current massive, nonstop testing program. I suspect that the plan of the US Department of Education is to reduce testing just enough to satisfy at least some critics and keep the same profits flowing to the testing and computer companies.

Despite the fact that Barack Obama and Arne Duncan began promoting the massive increase in testing even before they went to Washington following Obama's election in 2008, by 2015 they were talking as if over-testing was not the direct result of their neoliberal corporate "education reform" policies.With the proposed reductions, there will still be plenty of tests, and they will still be administered online, a huge and ever-growing boondoggle that bleeds money from schools, money that is desperately needed for legitimate educational purposes. Even if the amount of testing is cut 50%, the profits will be about the same, and we will still have far too much testing. Is the US Department of Education (or anybody else) making any serious efforts to determine just how much testing is necessary and how much is helpful? The answer to a proper inquiry might be very disappointing to the testing industrial complex.

Stephen Krashen Professor Emeritus University of Southern California.

Footnote: Krashen, S. 2008. The fundamental principle: No unnecessary testing (NUT). The Colorado Communicator 32 (1): 7. Available at:

[Letter sent to Substance dated February 24, 2015].


February 28, 2015 at 1:26 PM

By: Mike H Labruyere

LETTER: Obama and reading tests... 'With the proposed reductions, there will still be plenty of test

When will Krashen's voice be heard?

How many letters from a recognized and greatly appreciated world expert on language education does it take? Professor Stephen D. Krashen has argued for money to be spent on buying books and supplying education rather than buying tests and financing friends of the 1% for YEARS. When will the voice of the 99% be heard?

March 1, 2015 at 4:34 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Books serve children, democracy... so corporate reform doesn't want them!

Adults and children have known forever that the best way for children to learn to read was to "do reading," just as learning "math" requires doing math. But corporate "reform" in the USA -- and across the world following the export of the neoliberal agenda -- requires that "education" for the masses of children in the USA be commodified so that corporations can sell packages of "Learning" and not teach children. Krashen was not only reporting research, but also reminding people of common sense.

Ironically, our own children have opted out of the tests, with two small exceptions, for their entire careers at Chicago's O.A. Thorp elementary school in Chicago. Sam Schmidt began opting out in second grade, and Josh in first grade. This week, Sam received word that he had been accepted into Whitney Young Magnet High School, where he will be attending next year. Based on the scores of the Board of Education's current "metrics," Sam could have gotten into any of the city's lusted after high schools. As most Substance readers know, the Chicago Board of Education has been forced to require anyone wanting to get into the "selective enrollment high schools" has to take the "high school admissions exam," which was given at Lane Tech in December. Sam took that test. It's given so that Chicago's wealthy families, who have kept their kids in private or parochial school for elementary school, can try and get into the best high schools in Illinois. And so, there are three metrics: seventh grade GPA; the seventh grade standardized tests; and the "high school entrance exam."

Sam read "Calvin and Hobbs" in second grade while the rest of his class took whatever test they were forced to endure that year. Every year he went to school with a book on test day, and his teachers always respected that. By eighth grade, with a test equally meaningless, Sam brought "Marx for Beginners" to school with him while most of the other kids in his class took the test. Opting Out for Sam meant reading books, rather than doing the latest creepy test flavor of the month (there have been several, changing regularly because their purpose is not to actually measure learning, but to establish a brutal corporate "matrix" to screw children, teachers, and schools)...

We should have kept track of the tests and the books during those opt out years. But the fact is, our own family has proven what we all already knew, and what Stephen Krashen insist on all the time: It's better to be reading than to be taking another mindless corporate test.

March 1, 2015 at 11:48 AM

By: Kim Scipes

George Schmidt's comment on books, etc.

Thanks for sharing the story of your boys, George, as it perfectly illustrates your point: it's more important to read, and to learn to think critically, than to take any of these corporate tests. And these days, when students are so caught up in all the video "toys," reading is even that much more important. That's why the crime of CPS--having 160 schools in Chicago with no libraries--is so insane.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 5 =