Education International
Education International

Obama’s admission that high-stakes testing doesn’t work a positive step forward

published 30 October 2015 updated 5 November 2015

This week’s announcement by the American president that he and his administration acknowledge that current high-stakes standardized testing does not work may be the first step to returning quality learning to classrooms.

Admitting you are wrong is often said to be the first step on the road to recovery. This week the Obama administration, including an open letter from the president himself, rightly swallowed some tough medicine and admitted that out-of-control high-stakes testing is not working.

“I've heard from parents who worry that too much testing is keeping their kids from learning some of life's most important lessons,” wrote the president. “I've heard from teachers who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning, both for them and for the students. I want to fix that.”

President Obama has tasked the Department of Education with working with states and districts to address three key issues. He says that he wants the focus on the quality of tests over quantity; that tests do not rob students from learning; and that tests are not the only method of measuring student progress.

In its statement, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has called the president’s U-turn a success for students and teachers around the country.

"The president and the Department of Education have just proven that advocacy based on evidence works,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in the statement. “We need to celebrate improvement and the joy of learning, not sanction based on high-stakes standardized tests.”

Following the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which revealed that student scores in math and reading have dropped, the National Education Association (NEA) says this shows that high-stakes testing is failing students.

President of the NEA, Lily Eskelsen García, reacted to both the NAEP results and the Obama administration’s decision to rethink testing.

“The recent release of the NAEP scores once again demonstrates what educators have said all along,” she said. “The effectiveness of a system cannot be judged by a single test score.”

Eskelsen García said that she hopes the Obama administration announcement seriously addresses the problems of standardized testing.