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On Testing, What Was Obama Really Trying to Say?

By Michele McNeil — March 29, 2011 1 min read
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At Monday’s town hall about improving education among Hispanic students, President Barack Obama raised some eyebrows when he seemed to imply that annual testing may not be the way to go.

Here’s what he said in response to a student’s question about too much testing:

“Too often what we’ve been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. And so what we’ve said is let’s find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let’s apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let’s figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let’s make sure that that’s not the only way we’re judging whether a school is doing well.”

The Associated Press latched onto this, and wrote a story about how Obama wants less annual testing.

When we asked the U.S. Department of Education today about Obama’s statement, spokesman Justin Hamilton clarified it, saying annual testing is still very much apart of the department’s agenda:

“While we’re open to how we can best assess student progress in subject areas like history and science, we believe annual measures in reading and math are needed to assess progress toward college- and career-readiness. More must be done to improve the quality of those assessments, so that they’re a more meaningful measure of student learning...”

But turning to another part of his remarks, if the president doesn’t like tests that are delivered in pressure-packed environments that carry real consequences for students, this Politics K-12 blogger wonders what he thinks about another widespread testing phenomenon: the graduation exit exam. Twenty-eight states require students to pass tests before they can get their diplomas.

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