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MEDIA WATCH: New York Times reports Obama administration flip flop on high-stakes testing -- billions of dollars Obama administration has spent pushing Common Core, high-stakes testing, and privatization attacks on public schools are still at large....

President Barack Obama announced in early October 2015 that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (left) would leave office in December, to be replaced with an "acting secretary", John King (center). Obama will have an "acting" education secretary until a new administration takes office in January 2017 because the President does not want King to go through the confirmation process in the Congress. Photo by Slate.In a Saturday (October 24, 2015) article on the website of The New York Times (published on the front page of the national print edition the following day, October 25), the Times is reporting that the Obama administration is "against" high-stakes testing -- or at least against "overtesting". But the story and analysis misses many of the facts, including that high-stakes testing expanded a national policy -- with billions of dollars behind it -- courtesy of the Obama administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Along with teacher bashing, union busting, expanding charters, and closing real public schools, the testing regime was the central education policy of the Obama administration. Apparently, that has now "changed"? Responses have been many, so here is a sample...

Dozens of individuals and groups have responded to the White House announcement and the New York Times report on it. This morning we will share the Fair Test and AFT responses...

GRASSROOTS ASSESSMENT REFORM MOVEMENT REACTS TO OBAMA ADMINISTRATION STATEMENT, SCHOOL CHIEFS SURVEY ON STANDARDIZED TESTING OVERKILL

FairTest, National Center for Fair & Open Testing for further information: Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773, cell (239) 699-0468

for immediate release Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Obama Administrations weekend statement calling for fewer and smarter tests belatedly admits that high-stakes exams are out of control in U.S. public schools but does not offer meaningful action to address that very real problem, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), a leader of the countrys rapidly growing assessment reform movement.

FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer explained, The new Council of Great City Schools study to which the Obama Administration responded, reinforces widespread reports by parents, students, teachers, and education administrators of standardized testing overuse and misuse. Documenting testing overkill is, however, just the first step toward assessment reform.

Now, is the time for concrete steps to reverse counter-productive testing policies, not just more hollow rhetoric and creation of yet another study commission, Schaeffer continued. Congress and President Obama must quickly approve a new law overhauling No Child Left Behind that eliminates federal test-and-punish mandates. State and local policy makers need to heed their constituents' 'Enough is enough!' message by significantly reducing the volume of standardized exams and eliminating high-stakes consequences. That will help clear the path for the implementation of better forms of assessment."

Founded in 1985, FairTest advocates for valid, equitable and meaningful assessment of students, teachers and schools. The organization predicted negative fallout from the testing explosion when No Child Left Behind and similar state policies were adopted. FairTest works closely with grassroots education stakeholders around the country to reform national, state and local testing policies.

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS STATEMENT:

[Dear AFT member]

Saturday morning, the Obama White House and the Department of Education acknowledged that the obsession with high-stakes testing has gone too far, and admitted their own policies helped drive the problem.

Yes, its just a beginning. But it is a huge step. And it happened because educators and parents spoke up until the White House listened.

The White House has promised new guidance on testing by Januaryand were asking them to listen to stakeholders as they craft a solution.

Sign our petition: President Obama and the Department of Education, include parents, students and educators as you craft new guidance on testing!

Testing should help inform instruction, not drive instruction. We need to get back to focusing on the whole childteaching our kids how to build relationships, how to be resilient and how to think critically. We need to celebrate improvement and the joy of learning, not sanction based on high-stakes standardized tests.

Its a big deal that the president and the secretaries of educationboth current and futureare saying that they get it and are pledging to address the fixation on testing in tangible ways. Yes, the devil is in the details, but today its clear: Parents, students and educators, your voice matters and you were heard.

Its up to Congress to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and get rid of the worst impacts of testing, but the Department of Education can make a big difference right away. The departments policiesfrom Race to the Top and NCLB waivers to impending teacher prep policyplay a significant role in driving the testing fixation, and they can play a big role in changing the role of tests while we work with Congress to fix the law.

Sign the petition and ask the administration to listen to your voice and include your ideas as they craft new policies for all of our students.

The fixation on testing hasnt moved the needle on student achievement, and Americans can see its time to get back to focusing on teaching and learning.

Thats why overwhelming numbers of Americans think there is too much testing, as seen in the recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, and its why legislators on both sides of the aisle want to fix NCLB, a law that drove overtesting and school closings.

As we work with Congress to fix NCLB, we need to ensure that the new guidelines from the administration take parent, student and educator voice seriously.

Sign our petition to President Obama and the Department of Education, and help us reclaim the joy of teaching and learning in our classrooms.

In unity, Randi Weingarten, AFT President

NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE:

Obama Administration Calls for Limits on Testing in Schools, By KATE ZERNIKE, The New York Times, October 24, 2015

Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nations public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.

Specifically, the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to reduce over-testing as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nations public elementary and secondary schools.

I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support, said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, who has announced that he will leave office in December. But I cant tell you how many conversations Im in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.

Its important that were all honest with ourselves, he continued. At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.

Teachers unions, which had led the opposition on the left to the amount of testing, declared the reversal of sorts a victory. Parents, students, educators, your voice matters and was heard, said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

And even some proponents of newer, tougher tests said they appreciated the administrations acknowledgment that it had helped create the problem, saying it did particular damage by encouraging states to evaluate teachers in part on test scores.

But the administrations so-called testing action plan which guides school districts but does not have the force of law also risks creating new uncertainty on the role of tests in Americas schools. Many teachers have felt whiplash as they rushed to rewrite curriculum based on new standards and new assessments, only to have politicians in many states pull back because of political pressure.

Some who agreed that testing has run rampant also urged the administration not to throw out the No. 2 pencils with the bath water, saying tests can be a powerful tool for schools to identify weaknesses and direct resources. They worried that the cap on time spent testing which the administration said it would ask Congress to enshrine in legislation would only tangle schools in more federal regulations and questions of what, exactly, counts as a test.

What happens if somebody puts a cap on testing, and to meet the cap ends up eliminating tests that could actually be helpful, or leaves the redundancy in the test and gets rid of a test that teachers can use to inform their instruction? asked Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization that represents about 70 large urban school districts.

Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and one of the most vocal proponents for higher standards and tougher tests, said, Theres plenty of agreement that theres too much testing going on. But, he added, we have to be careful, as with anything federal, that it doesnt lead to unintended consequences.

The administrations move seemed a reckoning on a two-decade push that began during the Bush administration and intensified under President Obama. Programs with aspirational names No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top were responding to swelling agreement among Democrats and Republicans that higher expectations and accountability could lift the performance of American students, who chronically lag their peers in other countries on international measures, and could help close a chronic achievement gap between black and white students.

States, led by the National Governors Association and advised by local educators, created the so-called Common Core standards, which outlined the skills students should have upon graduation, and signed on to tests tied to those standards.

But as the Obama administration pushed testing as an incentive for states to win more federal money in the Race for the Top program, it was bedeviled by an unlikely left-right alliance. Conservatives argued that the standards and tests were federal overreach some called them a federal takeover and called on parents and local school committees to resist what they called a one size fits all approach to teaching.

On the left, parents and unions objected to tying tests to teacher evaluations and said tests hamstrung educators creativity. They accused the companies writing the assessments of commercializing the fiercely local tradition of American schooling.

As a new generation of tests tied to the Common Core was rolled out last spring, several states abandoned plans to use the tests, while others renounced the Common Core, or rebranded it as a new set of local standards. And some parents, mostly in suburban areas, had their children opt out of the tests.

Mr. Duncans announcement which was backed by his designated successor, John B. King Jr. was prompted in part by the anticipation of a new survey from the Council of the Great City Schools, which set out to determine exactly how much testing is happening among its members.

That survey, also released Saturday, found that students in the nations big-city schools will take, on average, about 112 mandatory standardized tests between prekindergarten and high school graduation eight tests a year. In eighth grade, when tests fall most heavily, they consume an average of 20 to 25 hours, or 2.3 percent of school time. The totals did not include tests like Advanced Placement exams or the ACT.

There was no evidence, the study found, that more time spent on tests improved academic performance, at least as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a longstanding test sometimes referred to as the nations report card.

Because so many actors are adopting and requiring tests, you often find a whole portfolio of tests not being very strategic, said Mr. Casserly, the councils executive director. Its often disjointed and disconnected and incoherent in many ways, and it results in a fair amount of redundancy and overlap.

Still, he said: We dont think tests are the enemy. We think theres an appropriate place for them.

The administration said it would issue clear guidance on testing by January. Some of the language of the announcement Saturday was general; it said, for example, that tests should be worth taking and fair. Like new guidance from many states, it stressed that academic standards and curriculum are to be fleshed out locally.

But it also said that tests should be just one of multiple measures of student achievement, and that no single assessment should ever be the sole factor in making an educational decision about a student, an educator or a school.

Still, it emphasized that the administration was not backing away entirely from tests: The announcement said tests should cover the full range of relevant state standards, and elicit complex student demonstrations or applications of knowledge and skills.



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