Testing has become today’s blog theme. President Obama addressed the topic at the town hall meeting this morning at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington. (See earlier blog on this event.)
“Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students,” said Obama.
The president has expressed this view before in discussing needed changes to No Child Left Behind, the sweeping federal law that President Bush enacted and that he considered his signature legislation. Testing is the foundation of NCLB, which rewards and punishes schools based on student scores.
However, despite Obama’s comments, the use of testing to judge teachers is a part of his own signature initiative, Race to the Top, which calls for new models to evaluate and reward teachers that consider student achievement. Georgia is one of the states that will develop and pilot new teacher evaluations in which student performance on tests will be a factor.
Obama, who is pushing a rewrite of the nation’s education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools, said policymakers should find a test that “everybody agrees makes sense” and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually.
At the same time, Obama said, schools should be judged on criteria other than student test performance, including attendance rate.
“One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.”
“And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in,” Obama said. “They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.”
The president endorsed the occasional administering of standardized tests to determine a “baseline” of student ability. He said his daughters Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, recently took a standardized test that didn’t require advance preparation but was just used as a tool to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses, and areas where they could use more emphasis from teachers.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog